A Tenuous Grip & Botanical Names

It’s tenuous …

The scientific names of plants seems  to change more and more — with the advent of DNA analysis. Seems like every time I look at the Florida Plant Atlas, the scientific name of the plant has been changed.

Last time it was the Evil Invader type of lantana or shrubverbena long known as Lantana camara that now is Lantana strigocamara.  The most recent surprise was the other, the less common kind of shortleaf wild coffee: Psychotria sulzneri now is Psychotria tenuifolia.

Tenuous and tenuifolia are derived from the Latin word, tenuis, meaning thin or slight.  When compared with the deeply veined, thickish leaves of wild coffee (Psychotria nervosa),

the iridescent leaves of shortleaf wild coffee are dramatically thinner and less rippled.

Palm Beach State College Botany Chair Dr. George Rogers said it very well in an email,  “A recent rash of nomenclatural topsy turvy — a lot of name-change activity for a 19th century science — been horrible in grasses and sedges — I guess DNA is the culprit.”

Damn that DNA!