|BOTANICAL ELECTRONIC NEWS|
No. 117 November 2, 1995
During a fungal biodiversity workshop Oct. 15-19, 1995, at USDA Headquarters in Beltsville, MD., a presentation and discussion session on herbarium curation was led by Dr. Quixan Wu from the Field Museum in Chicago. Freeze-drying as a preservation method for fungal herbarium specimens was discussed. Mycologists present at the workshop agreed that this technique was unsatisfactory for a number of reasons:
Traditionally, fungal herbarium accessions are microscopically examined either by using preserved slides included with the specimen, or by sectioning and rehydrating a small piece of tissue. The latter technique does not work with most freeze-dried specimens, whose tissues collapse upon rehydration.
For the past few years I have been working on the taxonomy and floristics of rust fungi (and some powdery mildews). During this work it has struck me how little co-operation there is between higher plant collectors and plant pathologists.
Most botanists collect the cleanest specimens they can find, and some pathologists only collect infected parts of host plants, making it near impossible for the botanists to identify them to any detail. Both sides are thereby losing out: the botanist, as many biotrophic parasites are very host specific, and the presence of e.g. a rust can help with the identification / taxonomy of a plant; and the pathologist plainly because valuable information can not be provided.
I therefore propose that specimen collectors of both disciplines keep in mind the interests and needs of the other discipline.They can thereby help themselves and each other as well as the community as a whole.
Nordic scientists are perhaps the greatest sinners in coining "colloquial" or "vernacular" names which are used only in academic papers. Special committees of botanists have been working in Finland to invent names for macrofungi, lichens, mosses, hepatics, etc. Similar efforts have been made in Norway and Sweden as well. These lists are usually regarded as authoritative, and if someone uses other names (e.g. genuinely vernacular or colloquial names) the person is accused of using "wrong" or "unofficial" names. Since the scientific community is small and living in a compact geographic area, the "correct" usage of national names can be controlled.
Personally, I find very difficult to understand why all plants should have national names, especially when only a few people in the whole country know those plants. When you write "jauhepikaritorvijakala", "karheatorvijakala" or "ruskopikaritorvijakala", it is guaranteed that nobody understands you. Those people who know these organisms have to check in some name list that they are Cladonia chlorophaea, Cladonia grayi and Cladonia pyxidata (I could not find a Finnish name for Cladonia merochlorophaea, but it might by something like "jyvapikaritorvijakala"). Those people who don't know these plants (the vast majority of Finns) won't know their Finnish names either.
One of the funniest cases I've met was an article in a Finnish conservation magazine on Aphyllophorales. The article used only Finnish names. However, those Finnish names were invented by the author of the article, and had not been published anywhere (later they were published, I believe). So it was guaranteed that only the closest friends of the author could know what these fungi were. However, the idea was that a general reader was not disturbed by cumbersome Latin names - it was not important that these names had no meaning to any reader.
In Finland the botany students still have to learn the Latin names (except in some basic courses). However, it seems that here in Norway only national names are taught to students (and many species have two national names: one in both official Norwegian languages). I've moved recently from Finland to Norway, and I think this is a problem when discussing with young generation Norwegian botanists or students.
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