The Corpus Callosum

The Jayco Tree

Botanical names drive me nuts, sometimes.  Every plant that is
worth anything has many names.  The supposed gold standard, the
(Latin) Linnaean taxonomical name, gets changed every so often. 
So there is no constancy.  You’d think it would be easier to
research something if it has an unusual name that you can use as a
keyword.  But that is not always the case.  Especially if the
names are changed.

Last week, I noted that I am familiar with one kind of tree, called a
mimosa tree.  This tree has blossoms of an unusual color. 
But that color is not mimosa.  There are other trees, also called
mimosa, that have blossoms with the mimosa color.  A commenter ( href="http://sciencefictionbiology.blogspot.com/">Peggy) pointed
that out. 

Naturally, I Googled it, as she had, and found out a little bit about
the tree which is the namesake of the mimosa color.  As well as I
can determine, with casual effort, the tree originally was called Mimosa
farnesiana
.  Then it was called Acacia farnesiana
Now it is called Vachellia farnesiana

But everyone still calls them mimosa trees.

If you happen to care about the details of acacia nomenclature, there
is a site called World Wide
Wattle
(acacias are also called wattles, in Australia).

Acacia is currently treated as a single genus but its
fragmentation into multiple genera is likely to occur over the next few
years. Generic and infrageneric nomenclatural repercussions associated
with this change are discussed elsewhere on Worldwidewattle. Because
species and infraspecific names will become available under the new
genera in dribs and drabs, Worldwidewattle provides alternative views
of the classification so users may track changes as they occur.

i-e542ee465afecea81510e1f0690a7512-Mimosa_farnesiana.jpg

This past weekend, I had to work at the hospital.  The hospital
has two buildings.  One is east of the other, and is called the
South Building.  The other is to the west, so it is called the
North Building. 


Actually, the South Building is a little bit south of the North
Building, but  the separation is greater along the east-west axis
than it is along the north-south axis, so I would have named them
differently.  I suppose we could change the names, but that would
be confusing.

Anyway, I was in the South (east) Building, and had to go to the North
(west) Building.  I could have gone through the parking lot, which is
quicker, but which provides a view of mostly steel and asphalt; or, I
could have taken the longer route, which is more scenic. 

The problem that I was going to have to deal with, was going to entail
sitting calmly while an adolescent screamed at me for a half hour or
so.  Being so not in a hurry, I took the longer
route.

On that route, I could not stop and smell the roses.  That is
because we removed
the roses in some kind of silly JCAHO-inspired safety campaign. 
(As though a suicidal teenager could somehow escape, and instead of
running out onto the Interstate, might stop and try to swallow a rose
bush.)  But I did stop and look at some of the remaining
vegetation.

Several steps away from the walk, to the north (really the west), I saw
a shrubby
tree that I hadn’t noticed before.  I could try to surprise my
readers by telling everyone that it turned out to be that other mimosa,
Vachellia farnesiana.  But everyone has already guessed
that.  The photo might be a clue.  What the photo does not
show, is that Vachellia farnesiana has thorns.  The thorns
are much larger than those on any rose.  In fact, among its many
names, it also
is called the needle bush

href="http://www.worldwidewattle.com/speciesgallery/farnesiana.php">i-ad232c43b2cc3033b6d8438103f02e4d-farnesiana_simmons1.jpg

The Joint Commission needs to learn their botany.  Why pull up the
roses — with their 5mm thorns — and leave the Vachellia farnesiana,
with its 20mm thorns?

Oh, and just to clarify what I am talking about, JCAHO stands for
“Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.” 
But now they call themselves simply “The Joint Commission.”  They
changed the name.  But everyone still calls them JCAHO, or
“jay-co.”  And they are just as thorny now as they ever were,
despite the change in their name.

Comments

  1. #1 John S. Wilkins
    August 3, 2009

    You might like to watch this, at around 2:44:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_f_p0CgPeyA

  2. #2 DrA
    August 3, 2009

    >>Every plant that is worth anything has many names. The supposed gold standard, the (Latin) Linnaean taxonomical name, gets changed every so often. So there is no constancy.

    CC does a good job of illustrating why scientific names are so important, common names are nearly useless, particularly one (mimosa) that refers not only to a huge number of trees with bicompound leaves and powderpuff inflorescenes (although usually only the pink ones) as well as a rather good breakfast beverage.
    CC did not note that this particular tree did not get a whole new name; the specific epithet (what amateurs like CC call the species name) stayed the same. It was literally transferred to a new genus because what had been called the genus Mimosa turned out to be an assemblage of more diversity than previously known.
    But if it makes CC feel any better systematic research in the bean family has the whole huge thing in taxonomic upheaval, and the new names vex even botanists.

  3. #3 abb3w
    August 3, 2009

    As you note, it’s not a platinum-iridium standard, but rather a gold standard. Gold is malleable. =)

  4. #4 k8
    August 4, 2009

    I had to laugh the last time we were “preparing” for a JCHAO visit. One of our nurses was going through a checklist and said we had to take the plants off the top of the cabinets in the patient rooms because some “curious child” might be able to balance four chairs stacked on an exam table and get to them.

    I opened the drawer at child hand height and pointed to the needles, scissors and scalpels and said, “What? Are you nuts?”

    She still made me take it down before the inspector came. Good Lord.

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