Monday, 23 February 2009

Chamaerops excelsus Mart. non Thunb.!

The palm described by Thunberg wasn't the Chusan palm after all. For his herbarium specimen he had quoted two Japanese names that referred to Trachycarpus but his plant was something else: the Lady palm, for long known as Rhapis flabelliformis. This mix up was resolved by Henry at the Arnold Arboretum. Trachycarpus excelus Wendl. ceased to be valid. Rhapis flabelliformis Ait. became Rapis excelsa (Thunb.) Henry nex Rehd. and the Chusan palm moved to the next validly published name which was that of Hooker honouring Fortune. Even though Hooker had invented the new name for a plant that was identical to the then supposedly validly named palm growing in the palm house, and botched the illustration in the Botanical Magazine. Botanical Law is an ass.

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