Page images

Nuculæ 2, hinc convexæ inde planæ ibidemque sulco tenui exaratæ, pallidæ, testaceæ, glabræ. Nucleus albus, albumine corneo, embryone erecto subclavato.”

A briefer and comparative mode of describing species is, however, more frequently employed; of which the following of Hypericum perforatum, from Sir James Smith's English Flora, is a good instance:

Root woody, somewhat creeping. Stem taller than the last (H. quadrangulum), and much more bushy, in consequence of the much greater length of its axillary leafy branches : its form round, with only two opposite ribs or angles, not so acute as those of H. quadrangulum. The whole herb is moreover of a darker green, with a more powerful scent when rubbed; staining the fingers with dark purple, from the greater quantity of coloured essential oil lodged in the herbage and even in the petals. Leaves very numerous, smaller than the last ; elliptical, or ovate, obtuse, various in width. Flowers bright yellow, dotted and streaked with black or dark purple; numerous, in dense, forked, terminal panicles. Calyx narrow. Styles short, erect.

Styles short, erect. Capsule large, ovate.” (English Flora, iii. 325.)

In order to show the materials from which a plant is described, it has become customary to add, immediately after the indication of its native country, within a parenthesis, certain explanatory abbreviations; such as v. s. sp. (vidi siccam spontaneam), meaning that a wild specimen has been examined in a dried state; or v. s.c. (vidi siccam cultam), meaning that a cultivated specimen has been examined in a dried state; v. v. sp. (vidi vivam spontaneam), meaning that it has been seen wild in a living state ; or v. v. c. (vidi vivam cultam), meaning that it has been seen cultivated in a living state; and the like. These are useful things to know, because it enables a reader to judge of the goodness of the materials from which an author has been describing. But they are capable of much improvement. It now appears, indeed, whether a plant has been seen alive or dried, wild or cultivated, but we have nothing to show what the nature of the examination has been to which it has been subjected in either

A plant may have been seen alive, and not examined


or analysed until it was dried; another may have been inspected in a dried state, without having been analysed; or, if analysed, the analysis may have been very imperfect: no examination may have been made of the interior of the ovary, of the fruit, or of the seed; all points upon which it is useful to possess information. It is, therefore, desirable that some alteration, or rather extension, of these abbreviations should be contrived, something after the following manner:— v.v. et ex. f.ov. fr. s.; “seen alive and examined, flower, ovarium, fruit, and seed:” if all these are named, they will all have been examined; if part only, then the other parts will be understood not to have been examined. The great necessity of making some such addition as this will, I am sure, be felt by every one accustomed to consult botanical works. At all events, it is indispensable that it should be stated whether a plant has been examined sufficiently, as well as seen; because merely to inspect a plant in a herbarium will often enable the observer to form but a very imperfect idea of its organisation. For this reason I have introduced the abbreviation exam. (examinavi) into some of my own works, thus :

“ Habitat in Mexico; Pavon. (exam. s. sp. in Herb. Lambert.)

Connected with this subject is the mode of stating the native countries of plants, and of citing the authorities upon which the statement is made. For this purpose the two rules of De Candolle are unexceptionable.

1. If you have yourself seen a specimen collected in its native country, then the name of the collector, which is placed immediately after that of the country, is printed in italics: but, 2. If you have no other authority for the habitation than some printed book or manuscripts, then the name of the author from whom you derive your information is printed in Roman characters; thus:

“ Hab. in Mexico, Graham ; Caribæis, Jacquin; Florida, Frazer ; Louisiana, Rafinesque.”

Here it is seen that you have examined Mexican specimens collected by Mr. Graham, and Florida ones from Frazer ; but that you trust to the writings of Jacquin and Rafinesque for its being also found in the West Indies and in Louisiana.



As the principle of composing and punctuating generic and specific characters and descriptions, when written in Latin, differs from that employed in ordinary composition, a few rules upon the subject may with propriety be introduced here.

In the characters of classes, orders, or genera, the nominative case is employed, the ablative being only occasionally introduced: each adjective is separated by a comma; and the different members of a character by a semicolon, or a period; as : “ Perianthium deciduum. Ovarium liberum, sessile, monospermum, ovulo erecto. Stylus brevissimus. Stigma sublobatum. Semen nucamentaceum, arillo multipartito. Albumen ruminatum, sebaceo-carnosum.”


Perianthium deciduum. Ovarium liberum, sessile, monospermum, ovulo erecto; stylus brevissimus; stigma sublobatum. Semen nucamentaceum, arillo multipartito; albumen ruminatum, sebaceo-carnosum."

The latter is the better of the two, because the semicolons show that the parts connected by them all form portions of the same organ; while, if the period is exclusively used, it would appear as if the parts divided by it were all so many

distinct organs.

In specific characters, it is customary to employ the ablative case; not to separate the adjectives that belong to the same noun by any point; to use commas to divide the members of the sentence; to employ the colon to indicate when a new sentence forms a part of that which precedes; and to exclude the semicolon altogether, or to employ it to separate adjectives in the nominative case, when such are introduced, as is sometimes the case, from the ablative part of the character. Thus we write,

[ocr errors]

“Stemodia balsamea, caule procumbente, ramis subhirsutis, foliis ovatis obtusis basi in petiolum brevem angustatis glabris: floralibus conformibus, floribus axillaribus sessilibus solitariis vel utrinque 2–3-glomeratis, calycibus 5-partitis: laciniis lanceolato-subulatis."

And not,

“ Stemodia balsamea, caule procumbente, ramis subhirsutis, foliis ovatis, obtusis, basi in petiolum brevem angustatis, glabris, floralibus conformibus, floribus axillaribus, sessilibus, solitariis, vel utrinque 2–3-glomeratis, calycibus 5-partitis, laciniis lanceolato-subulatis."

If this character were punctuated in the latter manner, it would not be certain whether or not laciniis referred to calyx, or to any thing else; in the former case it is distinctly indicated.

If a semicolon is introduced into a specific character, it is when an adjective in the nominative case immediately follows the specific name, preceding all that part that is in the ablative: thus,

“ Gesneria misera, procumbens; foliis obovatis villosis,” &c.

In detailed descriptions, the mode of composing and punctuating is much the same as in the characters of genera; the nominative case being chiefly used, and commas being placed between each adjective. The members of a sentence are divided by semicolons; and if colons are employed, it is in the same sense as in specific characters.

Although such are the most approved rules of punctuation, yet it must be confessed they are little attended to by many Botanists ; although it cannot be doubted that they tend very much to perspicuity and precision of language.



The following are the canons instituted by Linnæus, with reference to this subject. They are what guide the Botanist in his doubts; and, although exceptionable in some points, as will hereafter appear, are, upon the whole, well deserving of attention and respect.

1. The names of plants are of two kinds; those of the class and order, which are understood; and of the genus and species, which are expressed. The name of the class and order never enter into the denominations of a plant.

2. All plants agreeing in genus are to have the same generic name.

3. All plants differing in genus are to have a distinct generic name.

4. Each generic name must be single. 5. Two different genera cannot be designated by the same


6. It is the business of those who distinguish new genera to name them.

7. Generic names derived from barbarous languages ought on no account to be admitted.

8. Generic names compounded of two entire words are improper, and ought to be excluded. Thus, Vitis Idæa must give way to Vaccinium, and Crista Galli to Rhinanthus.

9. Generic names formed of two Latin words are scarcely tolerable. Some of them have been admitted, such as Cornucopiæ, Rosmarinus, Sempervivum, &c., but these examples are not to be imitated.

10. Generic names formed half of Latin and half of Greek are hybrid, and on no account to be admitted: such are Cardamindum, Chrysanthemindum, &c.

« PreviousContinue »