Monday, 05 January 2015 23:55

Fun with Orchid Names – A Quiz

This post will help you recognize when you are looking at an orchid species name that is named for a person or persons. And, if you are so lucky as to get to name a newly described orchid species, it will help you do it correctly if your taxonomist has stopped returning your emails. It should also help you recognize when the author of a document is attempting feats of pedantry beyond his skill level. 

It assumes you know the difference between a species name and a registered hybrid name and that different rules apply for each. And it assumes that you have some basic understanding of botanical Latin. (And who doesn’t?) For instance, you should already know what I am talking about if I say that the gender of the two parts of the binomial must agree. And it assumes you won’t squeal and titter to learn there are three possible genders.

It is meant to be fun to read and play with as bits of real information is inserted surreptitiously into your brain. It takes the form of a quiz.

I originally wrote and posted this in rec.gardens.orchids in February of 2005. It got a dozen or so responses that are amusing as well as informative in that they add additional food for thought (and correct answers) contributed by a number of orchid experts who unlike myself may actually BE orchid experts. You can read the original post and responses from the archive of that group here.

Mouse over the pictures to see correctly attributed species name references. You know what those look like, right?

Anyway, here goes… Please read the entire quiz before answering any the questions.

When naming an orchid in honor of a person or persons there are two kinds of commemorative epithets: substantival and adjectival.

A substantival commemorative epithet is a name in the genitive (possessive) case. When translated into a common english name the substantival commemorative epithet Phrag. lindenii looks like this: Linden’s Phrag.

The ending of the epithet varies according to the gender and number of the person(s) being commemorated.

Personal names that end in a consonant (except “y” which is really a vowel) can be converted to substantival epithets by the interpolation of -i plus the genitive ending appropriate to the gender and number of the person(s) being commemorated:

-i for a man,
-ae for a woman,
-arum for two or more women,
-orum for two or more men or when persons with both genders are represented.

(Personal names that end in -er are a curious exception among those ending in a consonant because they drop the interpolated -i. This means it is the
*first* -i that is missing; not the final -i in masculine commemoratives. Trivia: gotta love it.)

Personal names that end in -e, -i, -o, -u, or -y can be converted to substantival commemorative epithets by the addition of the appropriate genitive inflection without interpolating an -i.


The quiz Part A: (2.75 points)

You have just discovered a new Phrag species and you want to name it. Use the Substantival form to create Latin binomials out of the last names of the following:

1. A gentleman friend whose last name is Fischer.
2. After yourself, if your last name happens to be Kovach.
3. After your wife, if your last name happens to be Kovach.
4. After your mother and father, if your last name happens to be Kovach.
5. The two deceased Klingon sisters, Lursa and Baytor Wilson. (who knew?)
6. Counselor Deanna Troy’s mother Loroxanna Troy.
7. Your wife whose name is Besse.


(These quiz questions are obviously tongue in cheek. For instance Besse’s husband had nothing to do with it… To read about Phrag. besseae’s discovery click here. Read the section called “History”)

An adjectival commemorative epithet is a name converted to an adjective by the addition of the suffix “-an” which must be inflected in accordance with the ending of the generic name (-anus, -ana, -anum). An adjectival commemorative epithet is not affected by the gender of the person or persons being named. When translated into a common name the adjectival commemorative epithet Phrag. Lindenianum looks like this: Lindenian Phrag. although it is usually translated just like the substantival epithet Linden’s Phrag.

(I could find no rule that told me when to use the substantival or adjectival case.)

-names ending in a consonant, even those that end in -er, require an interpolated -i preceding the suffix.
-names ending in -e, -i, -o, -u, and -y take the suffix without the interpolated -i.
-names that end in -a are special: like other vowels they do not take the interpolated i, but the suffix is reduced to -nus, -na, or -num.


The quiz Part B: (this part is only worth 1/4 point.)

You have just discovered some new Orchid species and you want to name them after people from whom you want something… like cash to help offset the expense of traveling deep into the jungle and lawyer fees to defend against the smuggling charge. Use the adjectival form to create Latin binomials for:

1. A Phragmipedium named in honor of somebody with the last name of Klotzsche
2. A Phragmipedium named after Mrs. Lueddemann, without whose generosity you would not be able to afford your daily dose of quinine.
3. A Phalaenopsis named for Mr Lueddemann, so he doesn’t get suspicious.
4. An Ancistrochilus after Mr Rothschild, a former friend and confidant who told Mr Lueddemann the truth about his wife and you thereby causing Mr. Lueddemann to cancel your ticket out of Africa…and sadly, leaving you without your quinine.

Too pass this quiz you need answer only the following question, “Is the author a pedant or is he in over his head?” But you must keep the answer to yourself and not write it down anywhere if you want the bonus points.



Read 4100 times Last modified on Monday, 05 January 2015 23:59
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