Infraspecific name

In botany, an infraspecific name is the scientific name for any taxon below the rank of species, i.e. an infraspecific taxon. (A "taxon", plural "taxa", is a group of organisms to be given a particular name.) The scientific names of botanical taxa are regulated by the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN).[1] This specifies a 'three part name' for infraspecific taxa, plus a 'connecting term' to indicate the rank of the name.[2] An example of such a name is Astrophytum myriostigma subvar. glabrum, the name of a subvariety of the species Astrophytum myriostigma (bishop's hat cactus).

Names below the rank of species of cultivated kinds of plants and of animals are regulated by different codes of nomenclature and are formed somewhat differently.

Construction of infraspecific names

Article 24 of the ICN describes how infraspecific names are constructed.[2] The order of the three parts of an infraspecific name is:

genus name, specific epithet, connecting term indicating the rank (not part of the name, but required), infraspecific epithet.

It is customary to italicize all three parts of such a name, but not the connecting term.[3] For example:

  • Acanthocalycium klimpelianum var. macranthum
genus name = Acanthocalycium, specific epithet = klimpelianum, connecting term = var. (short for "varietas" or variety), infraspecific epithet = macranthum
  • Astrophytum myriostigma subvar. glabrum
genus name = Astrophytum, specific epithet = myriostigma, connecting term = subvar. (short for "subvarietas" or subvariety), infraspecific epithet = glabrum

The recommended abbreviations for ranks below species are:[4]

  • subspecies - recommended abbreviation: subsp. (but "ssp." is also in use although not recognised by Art 26)
  • varietas (variety) - recommended abbreviation: var.
  • subvarietas (subvariety) - recommended abbreviation: subvar.
  • forma (form) - recommended abbreviation: f.
  • subforma (subform) - recommended abbreviation: subf.

Although the "connecting terms" mentioned above to indicate rank, such as "var.", are the recommended ones, the ICN allows for other connecting terms in validly published infraspecific taxa. It specifically mentions that Greek letters α, β, γ, etc. can be used in this way in the original document[5] and further ranks may be added without limit.[6] Names which use these connecting terms are now deprecated (though still legal), but they have an importance because they can be basionyms of current species. The commonest cases use "β" and "b"; examples mentioned in the ICN are Cynoglossum cheirifolium β. Anchusa (lanata)[7] and Polyporus fomentarius β. applanatus[8] whilst other examples (coming from the fungus database Index Fungorum) are Agaricus plexipes b fuliginaria[9] and Peziza capula ß cernua.[10] The ICN allows the possibility that a validly published name could have no defined rank and uses "[unranked]" as the connecting term in such cases.[11]

Abbreviation of infraspecific names

Like specific epithets, infraspecific epithets cannot be used in isolation as names.[12] Thus the name of a particular species of Acanthocalycium is Acanthocalycium klimpelianum, which can be abbreviated to A. klimpelianum where the context makes the genus clear. The species cannot be referred to as just klimpelianum. In the same way, the name of a particular variety of Acanthocalycium klimpelianum is Acanthocalycium klimpelianum var. macranthum, which can be abbreviated to A. k. var. macranthum where the context makes the species clear. The variety cannot be referred to as just macranthum.

Sometimes more than three parts will be given; strictly speaking, this is not a name, but a classification. The ICN gives the example of Saxifraga aizoon var. aizoon subvar. brevifolia f. multicaulis subf. surculosa; the name of the subform would be Saxifraga aizoon subf. surculosa.[13]

Legitimate infraspecific names

For a proposed infraspecific name to be legitimate it must be in accordance with all the rules of the ICN.[14] Only some of the main points are described here.

A key concept in botanical names is that of a type. In many cases the type will be a particular preserved specimen stored in a herbarium, although there are other kinds of type. Like other names, an infraspecific name is attached to a type. Whether a plant should be given a particular infraspecific name can then be decided by comparing it to the type.[15]

There is no requirement for a species to be divided into infraspecific taxa, of whatever rank; in other words, a species does not have to have subspecies, varieties, forms, etc. However, if infraspecific ranks are created, then the name of the type of the species must repeat the specific epithet as its infraspecific epithet. The type acquires this name automatically as soon as any infraspecific rank is created.[16] As an example, consider Poa secunda J.Presl, whose type specimen is in the Wisconsin State Herbarium.[17]

  • As soon as a subspecies of Poa secunda was created, then the type specimen of P. secunda immediately became the type specimen of Poa secunda subsp. secunda. The name "Poa secunda subsp. secunda" was automatically created (it is an "autonym"). Soreng created the subspecies Poa secunda subsp. juncifolia (whose type specimen is also in the Wisconsin State Herbarium),[17] thereby making the type specimen of P. secunda also the type specimen of Poa secunda subsp. secunda.
  • If in addition to the subspecies any variety of Poa secunda were to be created, then the type specimen of P. secunda would automatically become the type specimen of Poa secunda var. secunda. The type specimen would then have the classification Poa secunda subsp. secunda var. secunda.

The same epithet can be used again within a species, at whatever level, only if the names with the re-used epithet are attached to the same type.[16] Thus there can be a form called Poa secunda f. juncifolia as well as the subspecies Poa secunda subsp. juncifolia if, and only if, the type specimen of Poa secunda f. juncifolia is the same as the type specimen of Poa secunda subsp. juncifolia (in other words, if there is a single type specimen whose classification is Poa secunda subsp. juncifolia f. juncifolia).

If two infraspecific taxa which have different types are accidentally given the same epithet, then a homonym has been created. The earliest published name is the legitimate one and the other must be changed.[18]

Specifying authors

When indicating authors for infraspecific names, it is possible to show either just the author(s) of the final, infraspecific epithet, or the authors of both the specific and the infraspecific epithets. Examples:

  • Adenia aculeata subsp. inermis de Wilde
This identifies de Wilde as the author who published this name for the subspecies (i.e. who created the epithet inermis). Note that here it was decided not to indicate authority for the species.
  • Pinus nigra J.F.Arnold subsp. salzmannii (Dunal) Franco
Here, J.F.Arnold is the author who gave the species, European black pine, its botanical name Pinus nigra; Dunal is the author who was the first to publish the epithet salzmanii for this taxon (as the species Pinus salzmanii); Franco is the author who reduced the taxon to a subspecies of Pinus nigra.

Difference from zoological nomenclature

In zoological nomenclature, names of taxa below species rank are formed somewhat differently, using a trinomen or 'trinomial name'. No connecting term is required as there is only one rank below species, the subspecies.

Cultivated plants

The ICN does not regulate the names of cultivated plants, of cultivars, i.e. plants specifically created for use in agriculture or horticulture. Such names are regulated by the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP).

Although logically below the rank of species (and hence "infraspecific"), a cultivar name may be attached to any scientific name at the genus level or below. The minimum requirement is to specify a genus name.[19] For example, Achillea 'Cerise Queen' is a cultivar; Pinus nigra 'Arnold Sentinel' is a cultivar of the species P. nigra (which is propagated vegetatively, by cloning).

See also


  1. ^ Turland 2017
  2. ^ a b Turland 2017, Art. 24
  3. ^ See the examples in Turland 2017, Art. 24
  4. ^ Turland 2017, Art. 4; abbreviations from Recommendation 5A
  5. ^ Turland 2017, Note 1 to Art. 32.1
  6. ^ Turland 2017, Art. 4.3 and Art. 2
  7. ^ Turland 2017, Art. 24.4 Ex. 9
  8. ^ Turland 2017, entry Boletus applanatus of Appendix III
  9. ^ "Agaricus plexipes b fuliginaria page". Species Fungorum. Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  10. ^ "Peziza capula ß cernua page". Species Fungorum. Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  11. ^ Turland 2017, for instance Agaricus compactus [unranked] sarcocephalus in Art. 50E.Ex 7, or Geranium andicola [unranked] longipedicellatum in Art. 37.3.Ex. 5
  12. ^ Turland 2017, Art. 24.1
  13. ^ Turland 2017, Art. 24.1, Ex. 1
  14. ^ Turland 2017, Appendix I Glossary of terms used and defined in this Code, entry for "legitimate name"
  15. ^ Turland 2017, Art. 7
  16. ^ a b Turland 2017, Art. 26
  17. ^ a b Wisconsin Botanical Information System: Type Specimens, Wisconsin State Herbarium, University of Wisconsin, retrieved 2011-06-01
  18. ^ Turland 2017, Art. 53.3
  19. ^ Brickell, C.D.; Alexander, C.; David, J.C.; Hetterscheid, W.L.A.; Leslie, A.C.; Malecot, V.; Jin, X.; Editorial committee; Cubey, J.J. (2009). International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP or Cultivated Plant Code) incorporating the Rules and Recommendations for naming plants in cultivation, Eighth Edition, Adopted by the International Union of Biological Sciences International Commission for the Nomenclature of Cultivated Plants (PDF). International Association for Plant Taxonomy and International Society for Horticultural Science.



Autonym may refer to:

Autonym, the name used by a person to refer to themselves or their language; see Exonym and endonym

Autonym (botany), an automatically created infrageneric or infraspecific name

Banksia ericifolia

Banksia ericifolia, the heath-leaved banksia (also known as the lantern banksia or heath banksia), is a species of woody shrub of the family Proteaceae native to Australia. It grows in two separate regions of Central and Northern New South Wales east of the Great Dividing Range. Well known for its orange or red autumn inflorescences, which contrast with its green fine-leaved heath-like foliage, it is a medium to large shrub that can reach 6 m (20 ft) high and wide, though is usually half that size. In exposed heathlands and coastal areas it is more often 1–2 m (3.3–6.6 ft).

Banksia ericifolia was one of the original Banksia species collected by Joseph Banks around Botany Bay in 1770 and was named by Carl Linnaeus the Younger, son of Carl Linnaeus, in 1782. A distinctive plant, it has split into two subspecies: Banksia ericifolia subspecies ericifolia of the Sydney region and Banksia ericifolia subspecies macrantha of the New South Wales Far North Coast which was recognized in 1996.

Banksia ericifolia has been widely grown in Australian gardens on the east coast for many years, and is used to a limited extent in the cut flower industry. Compact dwarf cultivars such as Banksia 'Little Eric' have become more popular in recent years with the trend toward smaller gardens.

Binomial nomenclature

Binomial nomenclature ("two-term naming system"), also called binominal nomenclature ("two-name naming system") or binary nomenclature, is a formal system of naming species of living things by giving each a name composed of two parts, both of which use Latin grammatical forms, although they can be based on words from other languages. Such a name is called a binomial name (which may be shortened to just "binomial"), a binomen, binominal name or a scientific name; more informally it is also called a Latin name. The first part of the name – the generic name – identifies the genus to which the species belongs, while the second part – the specific name or specific epithet – identifies the species within the genus. For example, humans belong to the genus Homo and within this genus to the species Homo sapiens. Tyrannosaurus rex is probably the most widely known binomial. The formal introduction of this system of naming species is credited to Carl Linnaeus, effectively beginning with his work Species Plantarum in 1753. But Gaspard Bauhin, in as early as 1622, had introduced in his book Pinax theatri botanici (English, Illustrated exposition of plants) many names of genera that were later adopted by Linnaeus.The application of binomial nomenclature is now governed by various internationally agreed codes of rules, of which the two most important are the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) for animals and the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICNafp). Although the general principles underlying binomial nomenclature are common to these two codes, there are some differences, both in the terminology they use and in their precise rules.

In modern usage, the first letter of the first part of the name, the genus, is always capitalized in writing, while that of the second part is not, even when derived from a proper noun such as the name of a person or place. Similarly, both parts are italicized when a binomial name occurs in normal text (or underlined in handwriting). Thus the binomial name of the annual phlox (named after botanist Thomas Drummond) is now written as Phlox drummondii.

In scientific works, the authority for a binomial name is usually given, at least when it is first mentioned, and the date of publication may be specified.

In zoology

"Patella vulgata Linnaeus, 1758". The name "Linnaeus" tells the reader who it was that first published a description and name for this species of limpet; 1758 is the date of the publication in which the original description can be found (in this case the 10th edition of the book Systema Naturae).

"Passer domesticus (Linnaeus, 1758)". The original name given by Linnaeus was Fringilla domestica; the parentheses indicate that the species is now considered to belong in a different genus. The ICZN does not require that the name of the person who changed the genus be given, nor the date on which the change was made, although nomenclatorial catalogs usually include such information.

In botany

"Amaranthus retroflexus L." – "L." is the standard abbreviation used in botany for "Linnaeus".

"Hyacinthoides italica (L.) Rothm. – Linnaeus first named this bluebell species Scilla italica; Rothmaler transferred it to the genus Hyacinthoides; the ICNafp does not require that the dates of either publication be specified.

Botanical name

A botanical name is a formal scientific name conforming to the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN) and, if it concerns a plant cultigen, the additional cultivar or Group epithets must conform to the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP). The code of nomenclature covers "all organisms traditionally treated as algae, fungi, or plants, whether fossil or non-fossil, including blue-green algae (Cyanobacteria), chytrids, oomycetes, slime moulds and photosynthetic protists with their taxonomically related non-photosynthetic groups (but excluding Microsporidia)."The purpose of a formal name is to have a single name that is accepted and used worldwide for a particular plant or plant group. For example, the botanical name Bellis perennis denotes a plant species which is native to most of the countries of Europe and the Middle East, where it has accumulated various names in many languages. Later, the plant was introduced worldwide, bringing it into contact with more languages. English names for this plant species include: daisy, English daisy, and lawn daisy. The cultivar Bellis perennis 'Aucubifolia' is a golden-variegated horticultural selection of this species.

Dendrosenecio battiscombei

Dendrosenecio battiscombei (synonym Senecio battiscombei) is one of the giant groundsels that lives on the slopes of Mount Kenya and the Aberdare Range. Like Dendrosenecio adnivalis on the Ruwenzori Mountains and the Virunga Mountains, Dendrosenecio battiscombei grows in the lower wetter areas of the Afro-Alpine zone.

Dendrosenecio brassiciformis

Dendrosenecio brassiciformis is one of the East African giant groundsel, this one is endemic to the slopes of Aberdare Range and bearing fruit but once, and dying after. Once considered to be of the genus Senecio but since have been reclassified into their own genus Dendrosenecio.

Dendrosenecio cheranganiensis

Dendrosenecio cheranganiensis is one of the East African giant groundsel, this one endemic to the Cherangani Hills. Once it was a genus of Senecio but has recently been reclassified as a Dendrosenecio.

Dendrosenecio elgonensis

Dendrosenecio elgonensis is one of the giant groundsel of East Africa; this one is endemic to Mount Elgon. They used to be considered part of the genus Senecio but recently have been reclassified to their own genus, Dendrosenecio.

Dendrosenecio erici-rosenii

Dendrosenecio erici-rosenii one of the East African giant groundsel and this one can be found on the Rwenzori Mountains, Virunga Mountains and the Mitumba Mountains. It is a species of the genus Dendrosenecio and is also a collection of reclassified Senecio species.

Dendrosenecio kilimanjari

Dendrosenecio kilimanjari is a giant groundsel found atop Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. It was originally known as Senecio kilimanjari, but a recent botanical reclassification split off some species formerly in Senecio, putting it and various other species in the new genus Dendrosenecio. Both genera are in the family Asteraceae. The giant grounsels of the genus Dendrosenecio evolved, about a million years ago, from a Senecio that established itself on Mount Kilimanjaro, with those that survived adapting into Dendrosenecio kilimanjari. This later colonised other mountains by some means - the standard distance for wind dispersal of seeds is a few metres - and these isolated populations adapted in ways different from the parent population, creating new species.

Dendrosenecio meruensis

Dendrosenecio meruensis is one of the East African giant groundsel, this one is endemic to the slopes of Mount Meru. Once they were considered to be of the genus Senecio but since then have been reclassified into their own genus Dendrosenecio.

Gladiolus murielae

Gladiolus murielae is a species of flowering plant in the family Iridaceae, native to eastern Africa, from Ethiopia to Malawi. It has been given a number of English names, including Abyssinian gladiolus and fragrant gladiolus. It was formerly placed in the genus Acidanthera.It is a cormous perennial growing to 70–100 cm (28–39 in) tall, with linear leaves and in late summer, numerous fragrant white flowers with a maroon (occasionally orange) blotch in the throat, on slender nodding stems. Widely cultivated, it is a common subject in western and southern European gardens, where the corms are lifted every year and stored in frost-free conditions.This plant has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.Hardiness: Zones 7–10 (6b with deep planting and mulching)

International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants

The International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN) is the set of rules and recommendations dealing with the formal botanical names that are given to plants, fungi and a few other groups of organisms, all those "traditionally treated as algae, fungi, or plants". It was formerly called the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN); the name was changed at the International Botanical Congress in Melbourne in July 2011 as part of the Melbourne Code which replaced the Vienna Code of 2005.

The current version of the code is the Shenzhen Code adopted by the International Botanical Congress held in Shenzhen, China, in July 2017. As with previous codes, it took effect as soon as it was ratified by the congress (on 29 July 2017), but the documentation of the code in its final form was not published until 26 June 2018.

The name of the Code is partly capitalized and partly not. The lower-case for "algae, fungi, and plants" indicates that these terms are not formal names of clades, but indicate groups of organisms that were historically known by these names and traditionally studied by phycologists, mycologists, and botanists. This includes blue-green algae (Cyanobacteria); fungi, including chytrids, oomycetes, and slime moulds; photosynthetic protists and taxonomically related non-photosynthetic groups. There are special provisions in the ICN for some of these groups, as there are for fossils.

The ICN can only be changed by an International Botanical Congress (IBC), with the International Association for Plant Taxonomy providing the supporting infrastructure. Each new edition supersedes the earlier editions and is retroactive back to 1753, except where different starting dates are specified.For the naming of cultivated plants there is a separate code, the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants, which gives rules and recommendations that supplement the ICN.

Plant identification

Plant identification is the process of matching a specimen plant to a known taxon. It uses various methods, most commonly single-access keys or multi-access keys.

Taxonomic rank

In biological classification, taxonomic rank is the relative level of a group of organisms (a taxon) in a taxonomic hierarchy. Examples of taxonomic ranks are species, genus, family, order, class, phylum, kingdom, domain, etc.

A given rank subsumes under it less general categories, that is, more specific descriptions of life forms. Above it, each rank is classified within more general categories of organisms and groups of organisms related to each other through inheritance of traits or features from common ancestors. The rank of any species and the description of its genus is basic; which means that to identify a particular organism, it is usually not necessary to specify ranks other than these first two.Consider a particular species, the red fox, Vulpes vulpes: the next rank above, the genus Vulpes, comprises all the "true" foxes. Their closest relatives are in the immediately higher rank, the family Canidae, which includes dogs, wolves, jackals, and all foxes; the next higher rank, the order Carnivora, includes caniforms (bears, seals, weasels, skunks, raccoons and all those mentioned above), and feliforms (cats, civets, hyenas, mongooses). Carnivorans are one group of the hairy, warm-blooded, nursing members of the class Mammalia, which are classified among animals with backbones in the phylum Chordata, and with them among all animals in the kingdom Animalia. Finally, at the highest rank all of these are grouped together with all other organisms possessing cell nuclei in the domain Eukarya.

The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature defines rank as: "The level, for nomenclatural purposes, of a taxon in a taxonomic hierarchy (e.g. all families are for nomenclatural purposes at the same rank, which lies between superfamily and subfamily)."


In zoological nomenclature, a trinomen (plural: trinomina), trinominal name, or ternary name, refers to the name of a subspecies. For example: "Gorilla gorilla gorilla" (Savage, 1847) for the western lowland gorilla (genus Gorilla, species western gorilla). Also, "Bison bison bison" (Linnaeus, 1758) for the plains bison (genus Bison, species American bison).

A trinomen is a name with three parts: generic name, specific name and subspecific name. The first two parts alone form the binomen or species name. All three names are typeset in italics, and only the first letter of the generic name is capitalised. No indicator of rank is included: in zoology, subspecies is the only rank below that of species. For example: "Buteo jamaicensis borealis is one of the subspecies of the red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)."

In a taxonomic publication, a name is incomplete without an author citation and publication details. This indicates who published the name, in what publication, and the date of the publication.

For example: "Phalacrocorax carbo novaehollandiae (Stephens, 1826)" denotes a subspecies of the great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) introduced by James Francis Stephens in 1826 under the subspecies name novaehollandiae ("of New Holland").

If the generic and specific name have already been mentioned in the same paragraph, they are often abbreviated to initial letters. For example, one might write: "The great cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo has a distinct subspecies in Australasia, the black shag P. c. novaehollandiae".

While binomial nomenclature came into being and immediately gained widespread acceptance in the mid-18th century, it was not until the early 20th century that the current unified standard of trinominal nomenclature was agreed upon. This became the standard mainly because of tireless promotion by Elliott Coues – even though trinomina in the modern usage were pioneered in 1828 by Carl Friedrich Bruch and around 1850 was widely used especially by Hermann Schlegel and John Cassin. As late as the 1930s, the use of trinomina was not fully established in all fields of zoology. Thus, when referring especially European works of the preceding era, the nomenclature used is usually not in accord with contemporary standards.

Variety (botany)

In botanical nomenclature, variety (abbreviated var.; in Latin: varietas) is a taxonomic rank below that of species and subspecies, but above that of form. As such, it gets a three-part infraspecific name. It is sometimes recommended that the subspecies rank should be used to recognize geographic distinctiveness, whereas the variety rank is appropriate if the taxon is seen throughout the geographic range of the species.


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.