Author citation (botany)

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In botanical nomenclature, author citation refers to citing the person (or group of people) who validly published a botanical name, i.e. who first published the name while fulfilling the formal requirements as specified by the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN).[1] In botany, it is customary (though not obligatory) to abbreviate author names according to a recognised list of standard abbreviations. In cases where a species is no longer in its original generic placement (i.e. a new combination of genus and specific epithet), both the author(s) of the original genus placement and those of the new combination are given (the former in parentheses).

There are diffences between the botanical Code and the normal practice in zoology. For example, in zoology the publication year is given following author name(s) and the authorship of a new combination is normally omitted. A small number of more specialized practices also vary between the recommendations of the botanical and zoological Codes.


In biological works, particularly those dealing with taxonomy and nomenclature but also in ecological surveys, it is customary to cite the author of a scientific name at least the first time this is mentioned, so as (for example) to be clear which instance of a named taxon is being referred to, especially on account of the presence of homonyms of some names in biology (for example Ficus L., the fig tree genus, vs. Ficus Röding, 1798, a genus of molluscs). Rules and recommendations for author citations in botany are covered by Articles 46-50 of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN).[1] As stated in Article 46 of the botanical Code, in botany it is normal to cite only the author of the taxon name as indicated in the published work, even though this may differ from the stated authorship of the publication itself.

Basic citation (simplest form)[edit]

The simplest form of author citation in botany applies when the name is cited in its original rank and its original genus placement (for binomial names and below), where the original author (or authors) are the only name/s cited, and no parentheses are included. When citing a botanical name including its author, the author's name is often abbreviated. To encourage consistency the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN) recommends[2] the use of Brummitt & Powell's Authors of Plant Names (1992), where each author of a botanical name has been assigned a unique abbreviation.[3] These standard abbreviations can be found at the International Plant Names Index.[4]

For example in:

the abbreviation "L." refers to the famous botanist Carl Linnaeus who described this genus on p. 492 of his great work Species Plantarum in 1753.

the abbreviation "Cham." refers to the botanist Adelbert von Chamisso and "Schldl." to the botanist Diederich Franz Leonhard von Schlechtendal; these authors jointly described this species (and placed it in the genus Rubus) in 1827.

The Latin term "et" can be used in place of the ampersand symbol "&",[5] also the abbreviation of author names is not obligatory, thus the following forms of citation for the above species are all equally correct:

  • Rubus ursinus Cham. & Schldl.
  • Rubus ursinus Cham. et Schldl.
  • Rubus ursinus von Chamisso & von Schlechtendal
  • Rubus ursinus von Chamisso et von Schlechtendal

Usage of the term "ex"[edit]

When "ex" is a component of the author citation, it denotes the fact that an initial description did not satisfy the rules for valid publication, but that the same name (with relevant attribution) was subsequently validly published by a second author or authors (or by the same author in a subsequent publication).[6] For example:

  • Andropogon aromaticus Sieber ex Schult.

indicates that Josef Schultes validly published this name (in 1824 in this instance), but his description was based on an earlier description by Franz Sieber. (Note that in Botany, the author of the earlier name precedes the later, valid one; in zoology, this sequence (where present) is reversed).

Usage of the ancillary term "in"[edit]

The ancillary term "in" is sometimes employed to indicate that the authorship of the published work is different from that of the name itself, for example:

  • Verrucaria aethiobola Wahlenb. in Acharius, Methodus, Suppl.: 17. 1803

Article 46.2 of the Botanical Code indicates that in such cases, the portion commencing "in" is in fact a bibliographic citation and should not be used without the place of publication being included, thus the preferred form of the name+author alone in this example would be Verrucaria aethiobola Wahlenb., not Verrucaria aethiobola Wahlenb. in Acharius. (This is in contrast to the situation in zoology, where either form is permissible, and in addition a date would normally be appended).

Multiple parts (original plus revising author/s)[edit]

In many cases the author citation will consist of two parts, the first in parentheses, e.g.:

  • Helianthemum coridifolium (Vill.) Cout.

This form of author citation indicates that the epithet was originally published in another genus (in this case as Cistus coridifolius) by the first author, Dominique Villars (indicated by the enclosing parentheses), but moved to the present genus Helianthemum by the second (revising) author (António Coutinho). Alternatively, the revising author changed the rank of the taxon, for example raising it from subspecies to species (or vice versa), from subgenus to Section, etc.[7] (Again, the latter is in contrast to the situation in zoology, where no authorship change is recognized within family-group, genus-group, and species-group names, thus a change from subspecies to species, or subgenus to genus, is not associated with any change in cited authorship).

As indicated above, either the original or the revising author may be of more complex form, as per the following examples from the same genus:

  • Helianthemum sect. Atlanthemum (Raynaud) G.López, Ortega Oliv. & Romero García
  • Helianthemum apenninum Mill. subsp. rothmaleri (Villar ex Rothm.) M.Mayor & Fern.Benito
  • Helianthemum conquense (Borja & Rivas Goday ex G.López) Mateo & V.J.Arán Resó

Authorship of subsidiary ranks[edit]

According to the botanical Code it is only necessary to cite the author for the lowest rank of the taxon in question, i.e. for the example subspecies given above (Helianthemum apenninum subsp. rothmaleri) it is not necessary (or even recommended) to cite the authority of the species ("Mill.") as well as that the subspecies,[citation needed] though this is found in some sources. The only exception to this rule is where the nominate variety or subspecies of a species is cited, which automatically will inherit the same authorship of its parent taxon,[8] thus:

  • Rosa gallica L. var. gallica, not "Rosa gallica var. gallica L."

Emending authors[edit]

As described in Article 47 of the botanical Code, on occasion either the diagnostic characters or the circumscription of a taxon may be altered ("emended") sufficiently that the attribution of the name to the original taxonomic concept as named would no longer be appropriate. In these cases a taxonomic statement to this effect would normally be appended to the original authorship using the abbreviation "emend." (for emendavit), as per these examples given in the Code:

  • Phyllanthus L. emend. Müll. Arg
  • Globularia cordifolia L. excl. var. (emend. Lam.).

(In the second example, "excl. var.", abbr. for exclusis varietatibus, indicates that this taxonomic concept excludes varieties which other workers have subsequently included).

Other indications[edit]

Other indications which may be encountered appended to scientific name authorship include indications of nomenclatural or taxonomic status (e.g. "nom. illeg.", "sensu Smith", etc.), prior taxonomic status for taxa transferred between hybrid and non-hybrid status ("(pro sp.)" and "(pro hybr.)", see Article 50 of the botanical Code), and more. Technically these do not form part of the author citation but represent supplementary text, however they are sometimes included in "authority" fields in less well constructed taxonomic databases. Some specific examples given in Recommendations 50A-F of the botanical Code include:

  • Carex bebbii Olney, nomen nudum (alternatively: nom. nud.)

- for a taxon name published without an acceptable description or diagnosis

  • Lindera Thunb., Nov. Gen. Pl.: 64. 1783, non Adans. 1763

- for a homonym - indicating in this instance that Carl Peter Thunberg's "Lindera" is not the same taxon as that named previously by Michel Adanson, the correspondence of the two names being coincidental

  • Bartlingia Brongn. in Ann. Sci. Nat. (Paris) 10: 373. 1827, non Rchb. 1824 nec F.Muell. 1882

- as above, but two prior (and quite possibly unrelated) homonyms noted, the first by Ludwig Reichenbach, the second by Ferdinand von Mueller

  • Betula alba L. 1753, nom. rej.

- for a taxon name rejected (normally in favour of a later usage) and placed on the list of rejected names forming an appendix to the botanical Code (the alternative name conserved over the rejected name would be cited as "nom. cons.")

  • Ficus exasperata auct. non Vahl

- this is the preferred syntax for a name that has been misapplied by a subsequent author or authors ("auct." or "auctt.") such that it actually represents a different taxon from the one to which Vahl's name correctly applies

  • Spathiphyllum solomonense Nicolson in Amer. J. Bot. 54: 496. 1967, "solomonensis"

- indicating that the epithet as originally published was spelled solomonensis, but the spelling here is in an altered form, presumably for Code compliance or some other legitimate reason.

Value of author citations[edit]

As stated in the Introduction, the most valuable initial function of author citations in biology is probably to distinguish between homonyms, in other words taxa which coincidentally share the same name but in fact represent different entities; in these situations the inclusion of the taxon authorship is sufficient to distinguish between them in most cases. Additional benefits of knowing the authorship of a taxon name include grouping of taxa by describing or revising author/s, thus permitting (for example) the study of a given biologist's nomenclatural activity through time (although this is easier in zoology than botany since the year is normally omitted in botanical citations); and, in many cases, to point in a preliminary way to the work in which the original description or new combination was published - again easier in zoology than botany on account of the publication year being normally included in zoological citations, but available one step removed in botany via recourse to resources such as Index Nominum Genericorum (for genus-level names), the International Plant Name Index, Index Fungorum, and similar compilations of both nomenclatural and bibliographic information for botanical taxon names.

See also[edit]

(specific to botany)

(more general)


  1. ^ a b McNeill et al. 2006
  2. ^ McNeill et al. 2006, Recommendation 46A.4, Note 1
  3. ^ Brummitt, R.K. & Powell, C.E. (1992), Authors of Plant Names, Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens, ISBN 978-1-84246-085-6 
  4. ^ "Author Query Page". International Plant Names Index. Archived from the original on 13 December 2010. Retrieved 29 November 2010. 
  5. ^ McNeill et al. 2006, Recommendation 46C.1
  6. ^ McNeill et al. 2006, Article 46.4
  7. ^ McNeill et al. 2006, Article 49
  8. ^ McNeill et al. 2006, Article 26.1


External links[edit]