10 November 2006

Conocarpus lancifolius solved!

Well, I won't say I didn't expect it… but my search for the truth of Conocarpus lancifolius has ultimately proved me right. To quote Marc Frank, the University of Florida Herbarium's Extension Botanist, "You have been misled by bad information on the web." And how.

Conocarpus is not a monotypic genus. The New York Botanical Garden has it wrong—but don't blame the Garden. The Garden posted inaccurate information on the internet, information from an early 20th Century botanical study by a fellow named Nathaniel Lord Britton, who took the time to include nice illustrations. It was the nice illustrations that led the Garden to use pages from the unpublished and incomplete work in its species descriptions on its web site. Other sources, including Princeton's WordNet and the writers of Wikipedia, took the Garden's information as gospel, because the NYBG seems a trustworthy source. But the Garden makes no claims as to the veracity of the information on its web page. It is, after all, there because of the pretty pictures.

In fact, Engle described Conocarpus lancifolius a few decades before Lord Britton began work on his botanical study. But Lord Britton was primary interested in plants of the American tropics, and there's only one Conocarpus species in the Americas. Had he done more research he'd have turned up lancifolius and not claimed Conocarpus was a monotypic genus. Why he didn't is anyone's guess.

In any event, armed with pictures, a page from a study of Somali plants helpfully scanned and emailed to me by the Florida Herbarium's (an excellent institution) Marc Frank, and the truth, I will be taking it as my mission to correct the inaccurate information in WordNet, at the NYBG, at CABI, on Wikipedia, and elsewhere on the web, thereby making the Internet a better place.

Now the question is, how would I go about getting a permit to import specimens so I can deliver them to the Herbarium…

1 comment:

Lucky Bob said...

So if we keep stationing troops all over the world eventually we can get all this taxonomy stuff straightened out on the web. Just kidding.