The Journal of Botany, British and Foreign 4: 201 (1866)
Some Propositions with respect to Systematic Botany
Professor Karl Koch, Berlin

Three especial sources of difficulty beset the systematic botanist of our day. 1st. The confused nomenclature. 2nd. The scattered literature. 3rd. The distribution of great numbers of plants by nurserymen under fanciful names. One man can do but very little to remove these obstacles, but a Congress of botanists and horticulturists will be better able to effect the necessary changes and improvements.

*CybeRose note: Currently (2018) the name
is written Gagea lutea Ker-Gawl.

Professor Koch proposed to obviate the confused synonymy by retaining the specific name first given; but as regards the generic name, to place that which recent investigation has adopted, first, and the one by which it was first described afterwards, in a parenthesis. If an author's name be given, it should be that of him who first described the plant. Our nomenclature begins with Linnaeus, and hence all botanists prior to him are to be disregarded. Linnaeus, for instance, describes Ornithogalum luteum, but Salisbury discovered characters of sufficient importance in this plant to justify him in making a new genus, Gagea. Our plants should therefore be called Gagea lutea (Ornithogalum), Linn.*

Secondly, the scattered literature. Botanists nowadays write in German, French, English, Italian, ete., and in a large number of different periodicals, so that it becomes very difficult, or even next to impossible, for a man to make himself thoroughly acquainted with the literature of the subject. Professor Koch proposes, therefore, to Belect a number of botanists from various countries to examine and collate the separate publications of their several countries. A general editor is to be appointed in a European town where there is a good library, and all extracts are to be sent to bim at that place. The general editor is to arrange these extracts scientifically, and to publish them in the Latin language.

Thirdly, as to the importation of plants by nurserymen. No disadvantage would ensue if the horticulturist were to adopt a provisional name in the first instance, and then apply to a botanist for the correct name, which could then be published; but in adopting this plan, there are two difficulties to be encountered. Oardeners would seldom take the trouble to change the provisional for the scientific name; and they would not always know which botanists studied particular families, or would not venture to trouble them. This ought, therefore, to be the task of a Botanico-Horticultural Congress.

Fourthly, many botanists have already devoted themselves to particular families, and it is to be desired that others should do the same. Horticulturists might then apply to these botanists for information, ete. Professor Koch then pointed out several instances where he has succeeded in carrying out the proposed reforms.


CybeRose note: Koch's first suggestion was resolved differently, but at least it was resolved. The other problems persist, though resources like the Int'l Plant Name Index are helpful.