Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Acacia out of place

A typical Cape Town stormy, sunny windy day - back to work for some - although it is a school holiday today as tomorrow is also a public holiday. This very African fever tree (Acacia xanthophloea) caught my eye this morning in front of the Magnet Theatre in Observatory - with its amazing yellow bark and green leaves trying hard to maintain a traditional acacia umbrella shape in the teeth of Observatory's famous Southeaster wind.
Pretty soon we may have to change the name acacia to "senegalia" because at an international botanical conference in Vienna in 2005, a sneaky decision was taken (while some botanists snoozed or couldn’t afford to attend?) to replace the name for the African acacias with "senegalia" and keep the name "acacia" for the Australian wattles. (The African and Australian species that used to live under the all-encompassing genus name Acacia apparently need to be split as it seems they are no longer closely enough related to cosy up together in the same genus.)
We Africans are mightily miffed! It seems to me that the integrity and credibility of the international botanical nomenclature system has been brought into disrepute. If a bunch of well-organized, well funded Australians can bamboozle the entire African, Asian and American botanical fraternity so easily by flouting the time-honoured law that precedence of a scientific name is an exceptionally important principle in biological nomenclature, what is the point of having such an organisation? Why not just give the name to the highest bidder?

1 comment:

  1. A wattle by any other name is still not an African Acacia. If we have to get used to a new name - at least Senegal is in Africa