To start with, I am not a person having sound knowledge in biology. When I started my search for phyto-chemicals in a particular family in the plant kingdom, I got confused. The scientific papers use a particular name, and when I searched in these 2 websites, (just to name it) I got the message that some of the names are "not resolved" or "synonyms".

My questions are

  1. Biologists do they accept the names mentioned in website 1? If not where can I find authentic names?
  2. Who controls / monitors the name of these plant species?
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    $\begingroup$ Out of curiosity, what name are you looking for? $\endgroup$ – Gaurav Mar 9 '12 at 9:17
  • $\begingroup$ I would go with results from the first site you mention (www.theplantlist.org) $\endgroup$ – Abe Mar 9 '12 at 16:13
  • $\begingroup$ iPlant provides an automated name resolver: tnrs.iplantcollaborative.org/TNRSapp.html $\endgroup$ – David LeBauer Jun 13 '12 at 17:10

When it comes to plants and animals, common names clearly differ from region to region.

A first effort to univocally classify them was done in the 16th century by Carl Linnæus (see my answer to this question for some historical background).

The nomenclature of plants is governed by the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN), and for animals from the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN).

The fact that there are rules, however, does not imply that names are conserved over time, nor that there is a rule for everything!

As time goes by rules change, certain species may be assimilated by others, or a certain subspecies will separate and become its own, and at times name changing proposals even raise havoc in the scientific community.

In summary, it is important to remember that taxonomy poses rules that are there to facilitate talking about science. Those are not absolute rules, sometimes they are arbitrary, and therefore for certain species there is no univocal name (and surely there is no correct name).

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  • $\begingroup$ can you just share the "Official" website of ICN. I could not any hits when i googled it. $\endgroup$ – Anil Mar 10 '12 at 10:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Anil: The International Association for Plant Taxonomy hosts the full text of the Vienna code. I could not really find the latest version (Melbourne code), although the IBC2011 website may be of help. $\endgroup$ – nico Mar 10 '12 at 11:14
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    $\begingroup$ For completeness' sake, the Melbourne code is now up at iapt-taxon.org/nomen/main.php $\endgroup$ – Gaurav Jun 3 '15 at 9:12

Nico provides a nice answer, but implies that the names are more fluid than they actually are.

It is possible to get an current standard nomenclature, and to update it each time the ICN releases a new edition.

The ICN requires that any changes be made by an international botanical congress, and changes are included when a new addition of the ICN is released. Also, note that the ICNCP is used for cultivated plants.

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    $\begingroup$ You misunderstood my point. What I am saying is that, well, names are names, and can change. That is why nowadays you would say Chroicocephalus ridibundus, rather than Larus ridibundus when talking about a Mediterranean Gull, although some years ago the opposite was true. That does not mean that anyone can change the names at his own will, but it is important to remember that there is no strict rule for nomenclature [continues...] $\endgroup$ – nico Mar 9 '12 at 16:44
  • $\begingroup$ [continued...] The case of Drosophila Melanogaster vs Sophophora Melanogaster is a beautiful example of this flexibility: the name ought to be changed, sure, but everyone knows Drosophila by that name, so we will keep it like that, even if there are scientific reasons to opt for a change. $\endgroup$ – nico Mar 9 '12 at 16:45
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    $\begingroup$ I was mostly pointing out that name changes are tractable through the ICN, and that the keeping up to date with the ICN is sufficient. $\endgroup$ – Abe Mar 9 '12 at 17:08

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