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Syntax and Intergeneric Orchids: What is in a name?

This is a discussion on Syntax and Intergeneric Orchids: What is in a name? within the General Orchid Culture forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; The Manual of Orchids (Senior Editor. Mark Griffiths, 1995), presented by the Royal Horticulture Society, ...

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  1. #1
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    Post Syntax and Intergeneric Orchids: What is in a name?

    The Manual of Orchids (Senior Editor. Mark Griffiths, 1995), presented by the Royal Horticulture Society, raises an interesting dilemma for me. I am always particular about details, especially taxonomical ones, or I try to be, at the very least. When writing about intergeneric hybrids such as found in the Cattleya and Oncidium Alliance, The Manual of Orchids uses a different syntax in listing these intergeneric wonders altogether. Instead of writing what we commonly refer to as Brassolaeliocattleya, for instance, it places an "x" before the non-naturally occurring genus to denote that it is a product of genetic manipulation. In other words, "x Brassolaeliocattleya" is used. Across the spectrum of intergeneric hybrids from different Orchid Alliances, I have noticed "x Brassidium" (Brassia x Oncidium); "x Epiphronitis" (Epidendrum x Sophronitis); "x Vascostylis" (Ascocentrum x Rhynchostylis x Vanda), etc....

    What to do we make of this syntax?

    Foremost, technically is it not most "proper" to denote these intergeneric complex, non-naturally occurring hybrids as "x genera"?

    In this way, the Royal Horticulture Society's usage is more reflective of the complexities of today's efforts to identify and cultivate complex genetic hybrids. After all, Is there not a difference between the orchids Cattleya aurantiaca and Brassolaeliocattleya Color Magic 'Mendenhall' AM/AOS . . . ? Would not "x Brassolaeliocattleya Color Magic 'Mendenhall' AM/AOS" be more reflective and identify the orchid better by denoting its genetic manipulation by human hands?

    On the one hand, I see merit to this usage, because it upfront designates that the genus is an artificial genetic manipulation. On the other hand, I personally have avoided using this "x genus" syntax, because it appears to be more difficult to read.

    Also I consider the following when I do not emulate the Royal Horticulture Society, despite my fondness for The Manual of Orchids. Whereas a certain precision is evidently gained in our written technical language in using this syntax, verbally we would never speak the "x" in regard to an intergeneric hybrid. Our spoken language would be too "stilted" in affect. Perhaps, it would be too complex to make sense of to the ear. In other words, we would never use it. . . . In this manner, the syntax "x genus" seems to me too confusing to make it pertinent, because our spoken language would never be reflective of our written language.

    Yet, I, like many in this forum, am but a novice enthusiast and grower of Orchids. Certainly the Royal Horticulture Society, as well as the American Orchid Society, which does not make use of the "x genus" for intergeneric hybrids to the best of my knowledge, establishes the "standards" to which we all should attempt to emulate. I think in this regard we would all readily agree that these, at least, two organizations rightfully uphold the way in which we write or speak our enthusiasm and cultivation for orchids, if we assume that the scientific research and academia are an active contributer to establishing these standards.

    So, then again, I ask what is technically more proper?

    Why is it that I have never seen the use of this "x genus" syntax with regard to intergeneric genera except within The Manual of Orchids?

    Anyone have any thoughts on this matter?

    Once again, thanks for reading....
    Tim

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    It is in Elvin McDonalds book '100 Orchids for the American Gardener' on pg. 9. He explains to use a small x for reduced abbreviations,such as x Blc., and to use a large X preceeding the name of an orchid,like X Laelocattleya to indicate the plant is a hybrid. I remember a critique of this in AOS magazine , saying this was not valid but I don't remember the details from the magazine.

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    Post MORE: The RHS, IRAOC, IOC, ICNCP, & AOS!

    Many thanks for the reply and sharing the information you provided. When I think about it more, the more I see the "grammar" that you suggest with respect to how the "X genus" nomenclature should be used.*** I especially recall this nomenclature with respect to abbreviations. Nevertheless, however, the “authority” to which the nomenclature for “X genus” remains without a definitive reference from the AOS mainly, other than what I have presented below in the format of a short essay.

    I have drawn some conclusions and wish to share them with the forum for a general discussion, though I fear the subject might be a little too “academic” in nature. Nevertheless, to me, the way in which we speak in our enthusiasm for orchids overall is important, as I am it sure to most. For we unknowingly assign values through the manner in which we write and speak. The nomenclature for “X genus” is but one instance in which we signify our values with regard to orchids. It has importance. . . .

    Do non-naturally occurring orchid genera, for instance, ones that are clearly the product of human engineering, need special identification in comparison to orchids that are naturally occurring within the landscape?

    (A) At one end of the spectrum, I should think that enthusiasts who are especially interested in conservation issues and have subsequently focused mainly on orchid species could weigh in heavily on the subject of the nomenclature of the “X genus,” its proper usages, and what it should mean.

    (B) At the other end, it seems that those vested enthusiast into cultivating and producing hybrids, those marveling at the complexities of genetics and the malleability of orchids in general, might have, possibly, a very different take on the subject at hand--the proper usage of “X genus” and subsequently its hermeneutics, a knowledge on the meaning of its use.

    Lastly I would love to get my hands on the “AOS MAGAZINE” that featured the article pertaining to above noted reply. I have not attempted to locate it yet . . . Does any one recall the publication details?

    Let’s delve a little deeper now into the ROYAL HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY (RHS) "legitimacy" through an analysis of symbolic logic in establishing orchid hybrid taxonomy for the sake of fostering a general discussion.

    ------

    THE MANUAL OF ORCHIDS never “directly” covers the subject of the "X genus" nomenclature in the book, insofar as I have read. There is one such reference to a discussion on “X Brassocattleya” that articulates the rules of the INTERNATIONAL REGISTRAR AUTHORITY OF ORCHID HYBRIDS (IRAOH). These rules are stated with regard to what makes for an orchid hybrid between “Brassavola sensu stricto” and Cattleya as well as all hybrids between (a) Rhyncholaelia, i.e. Rhyncholaelia digbyana et al., a genus synonym and valid genus taxonomically in its own right for Brassavola, AND (b) Cattleya. In many ways, the usage “X genus” does not need to be addressed specifically, because the overall nomenclature for ALL hybrids are legitimated by a process of stating the overarching authority by which RHS places its values on orchid hybrid standards.

    Thus, THE MANUAL OF ORCHIDS, in this manner, establishes its authority by two means:

    (1) An Internal Rationale. The RHS suggests it has a claim to how the taxonomy on orchid hybrids is undertaken, because it assumed the responsibility in 1961 of the previous established standard in nomenclature, SANDER'S LIST OF ORCHID HYBRIDS. In this manner, SANDER'S LIST became reified as the INTERNATIONAL REGISTRAR AUTHORITY OF ORCHID HYBRIDS (IRAOH). Therefore, in this way, we can conclude that the RHS is correct in its standards, because after-all the RHS set up the very organization (IRAOH) that currently maintains the nomenclature on orchid hybrids. . . .

    An “argumentum ad hominem,” an argument appealing “to [the merits of] a man” (which in literal translation is not “Political Correct”); whereby the “man” (or “woman”) is thus embodied by the RHS as “the man . . . ” (lol! sorry...), seems like a natural criticism of its own internal claim to authority: The nomenclature of the RHS is correct because it is the RHS after-all. The “ad hominem” fallacy, however, is actually the inverse of an appeal to authority, which is how the RHS legitimates itself below, rendering the “ad hominem” not valid as a means of critique. An “argumentum ad verecundiam,” translated as the “argument to respect” in Latin, or above the appeal to authority, seems to fit better. In other words, form the validity of a claim it does not follow the credibility of the source. Here the RHS seems possibly more liable with regard to its apparent internal rational. Does upholding the standard in orchid hybrids validate the RHS’s claim to credibility. . . ?

    (2) An External Appeal to Authority. The responsibility of maintaining the taxonomy of orchid hybrids gains further credence, and better logic, by the RHS agreeing to uphold the standards set forth by the INTERNATIONAL ORCHID COMMISSION (IOC) in 1961. In this regard, the IOC maintains a guide-book to the (a) general principles of plant nomenclature, (b) the rules that effect the nomenclature of wild and cultivated orchids, AND (c) the requirements for the registration of orchid hybrids. This guide is identified as the HANDBOOK ON ORCHID NOMENCLATURE AND REGISTRATION. This HANDBOOK had just been released in a fourth edition in 1993 when subsequently the RHS THE MANUAL OF ORCHIDS was published in 1995. From my research today, the fourth edition is the current guideline governing our nomenclature, as far I could estimate. In addition, even beyond this source of authority, the IOC itself has agreed to abide by the greater authority of the INTERNATIONAL CODE OF NOMENCLATURE FOR CULTIVATED PLANTS (ICNCP). This fact alone, thus, further strengthens the legitimacy of the RHS greatly.

    So, in other words, the use of the "X genus" nomenclature of the RHS is legitimated structurally by (a) an external regulating body meant to govern all orchids, the IOC, AND (b) an appeal to the main organization that regulates ALL taxonomy for "cultivated" plants, the ICNCP! In that regard, the standards set out in THE MANUAL OF ORCHIDS gains significance; because it follows the principles inherent to the IOC and, therefore, those established externally by the ICNCP.

    Does this line of reasoning, which gives sway to the RHS’s legitimacy, stand up to the above mentioned critique of an “argumentum ad verecundiam” . . . ?

    To me, the RHS’s credibility as an authority seems to be convincing here. In its appeal to authority, the significance of adhering to the “external” standards set by the IOC and, in turn, the ICNCP gains a great deal of merit. Yet, I await greater clarity of the official policy of the AOS, insomuch as the AOS has relevancy. That is to say, the AOS must take part in an “internationally” recognized nomenclature of plants insomuch as the RHS has in order for its own validity to be established. In a document I found on the AOS website, it seems that this relevancy is in practice by the AOS in at least 2008.

    Again, lets recall that the soundness of an “appeal to authority” rests upon whether the validity of a claim is, indeed, a function of the credibility of its source. Alternatively, in other words, the fallacy of “ad verecundiam” presents a case where the very legitimacy of the RHS, or AOS, nomenclature is questioned as a true statement with regard to the credibility of its source. Its seems, a soundness of reasoning--legitimacy--is evident in the external structure (relationship) of the RHS (and seemingly the AOS) to the IOC and, in turn, the ICNCP.

    In this manner, THE MANUAL OF ORCHIDS presents a compiling argument that gains merit by the “structural” relationship of the RHS to the IOC and ICNCP. What that means, inversely, is that if the ICNCP establishes a nomenclatural for all cultivated plants, then the IOC, which represents Orchidaceae as but one instance of all cultivated plants, must abide by a greater consensus of the international community. When this agreement exists in terms of a “public” agreement, via the interaction of the international dialogue, then a claim to authority is quite sound. The RHS, and hopefully the AOS in its own manner, is thus making a claim to orchid taxonomy and its proper nomenclature both (a) in its own self regulating body, the IRAOH (The Intentional Registry of Authority on Orchid Hybrids) AND (b) its participation in an international standards established by a “public” dialogue.

    Ergo! THE MANUAL OF ORCHIDS makes an compelling case for the use of “X genus” nomenclature. Please note that as of this point in this threaded discussion I am not aware of the "official" policies, i.e. proper nomenclature, of the AOS. Curiously I did search the AOS website and stumbled across the following is a general discussion on the nomenclature of orchid (hybrid) names. The document read:

    “A thorough discussion of orchid nomenclature is presented in The Handbook on Orchid Nomenclature and Registration (4th edition, 1993), prepared by The Handbook Committee of the International Orchid Commission with the cooperation of The Royal Horticultural Society.”

    From this above reference, dated in 2008, it seems reasonable that the AOS is, therefore, abiding by the IOC (and thus the ICNCP). The quote seems harmonious with the idea that the AOS is in agreement with the RHS on the matter of ALL orchid hybrid nomenclature. For the general discussion I located on the AOS website states that a more “thorough discussion of orchid nomenclature” takes primacy with reference to the IOC in cooperation with the RHS. Therefore, we can infer from that reference that nomenclature guidelines for the AOS is the same as the RHS, as presented to us in 1995 in THE MANUAL OF ORCHID, as well as elsewhere, because of the adherence to both to the standards set out by the IOC (and ICNCP).

    Dare I make a conclusion at this point and close this brief discussion on orchid hybrid nomenclature!?!

    The research and the soundness of the claim to authority by the RHS, as presented in THE MANUAL OF ORCHIDS, for which the AOS seems to give preference, seems convincing to me that we should, in fact, be using the “X genus” nomenclature in, at least, the technical language used to discuss intergeneric orchid hybrids, i.e., such as or X Ascocenda or X Miltassia. Yet, because the forum here, however, is often more “conversational” in tone, I would suggest that it is NOT necessary for we as a group to adopt what would become, possibly, a “stilted” language in our “everyday” enthusiasm. (The latter only appears a oxymoron!) Yet, if greater clarity is desired by in a specific post, say on synonymy of orchid hybrid names commonly found in the Oncidium Alliance (my favorite!), it seems advantageous that we adopt the more technically correct “X genus” nomenclature for the sake of greater clarity. Alas! The “X genus” nomenclature is a function of “appropriateness” in its usage within a narrative.

    Lastly, if I were to conclude one thing from this overall discussion on orchid hybrid nomenclature, then, it is the significance to which we, as individuals, enthusiastically cultivating, not really orchids plants per se, but a greater orchid “awareness,” must meet the challenge of “participation.” The importance of being a member of (a) an orchid society--albeit local, national, or international; OR (b) orchid enthusiast group, like this online forum, is thusly established, because it proffers a mere orchid enthusiast and grower the opportunity to be a part within the international community taking part in a public dialogue.

    It is important to participate in this “open” discourse. Not only does it bring about better skills with regard to horticulture and generate larger conservation efforts; our thoughtful participation in orchid nomenclature and taxonomy gains us greater voice in how we, as enthusiasts and grower alike, “speak” about orchids.


    ***CORRECTION. Please note with regard to own use of “x genus” in the previous post, I had, in fact, read the symbol incorrectly in THE MANUAL OF ORCHIDS for an lower case “x”. Instead, a uniquely hybrid-cross symbol is utilized over a letter. As the above reply clearly demonstrates and because I cannot reproduce this symbol here in the Forum, to the best of my knowledge, it is more correct to write “X genus,” thereby making use of the uppercase “X”, instead of “x genus.”

  4. #4
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    Tim, can you direct me via PM to the symbol you cannot reproduce here in our community. if it is possible to add it as a special character, i would be happy to do that.

    Cheers,
    BD

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    Hey Tim- That is some research there. I'm gonna pull some old conversational style folk wisdom out of a hat. There seem to be a lot of rules governing how orchids are registered and referred to. Here's how I know, when I am looking at tags, what kind of orchids are what:

    Our species orchids have a lowercase name:
    Such as Oncidium ornithorhynchum

    Hybrids within a naturally occuring Genus have an upercase name:
    Such as Oncidium Hastihorn (Onc. ornithorhynchum x Onc. hastilabium)

    A Naturally occuring hybrid, even if it was made in a lab for purchase has an x before the Epithet name:
    Such as Platanthera x canbyi (Canby's bog orchid, a rare cross between P. blephariglottis x P. cristata)
    Such as Platanthera x bicolor (P. blephariglottis x P. ciliaris)

    A Cross between two or more Genera will still have the capital Epithet name like the Oncidium mentioned above. We know its a man-made cross because of it still has the uppercase second name (Epithet name):

    A two Genera cross usually is a mashup of the Genera name with the uppercase second name:
    Such as Brassidium Gilded Urchin (Brassia arcuigera x Oncidium wentworthianum)

    A three or more Genera cross (a complex hybrid) is either a mashup of the names or has a made up Genera name that ends in "-ara":
    Such as Rhyncholaeliocattleya Dark Prince (Most Catts have these smushed together Genus names)
    Such as Degarmoara Flying High or Banfieldara Gilded Tower or Bakerara Truth (Most Oncids have these made up Genus names.

    While the X in front of X Rhyncholaeliocattleya or X Degarmoara may be official, the uppercase second name as also official, and gives non species orchids away just as well. Whether it is a single Genus or Multi-Genus cross, to me, it is still a man made cross.

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    It was in the book review section of the AOS magazine. Will look it up and let you know.

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    Found it. AOS Magazine March 1999 on page 267. Now, on to waffles and bacon for the grandkids.

    The review was by Ned Nash.

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