As new plants are discovered in California or new non-native invasives move into the state, Calflora adds them to the Calflora Database, a comprehensive online source of data on California’s wild plants. Meanwhile, plant taxonomy is also continually changing as research reveals new or different plant relationships, often necessitating plant name changes. These regular updates to the Calflora Database include species additions and name changes represented by synonyms (different scientific names used to designate the same taxonomic group), spelling changes, and lumping and splitting.
Updated plant names in Calflora are based on the Jepson eFlora’s Index to California Plant Names as well as the USDA’s PLANTS database. Calflora “crosswalks,” or translates, between old and new names, so you will find the species you’re looking for with a single search using either the old or the new name.
Below are four recent plant name changes for species that grow in the CNPS East Bay Chapter area. They are part of Calflora’s longer, illustrated list of recent name changes.
Acaena californica, previously Acaena pinnatifida var. californica
Adelinia grandis, previously Cynoglossum grande
hound’s tongue (also Adelinia)
Downingia ornatissima var. mirabilis, previously Downingia mirabilis var. eximia, Downingia mirabilis, Downingia ornatissima var. eximia
(no established common name)
Emmenanthe rosea, previously Emmenanthe penduliflora var. rosea
pink whispering bells
Family: Hydrophyllaceae (this is another change: Emmenanthe was previously in the Boraginaceae)
Calflora tracks name changes, but not the myriad of reasons why a name changes. Hound’s tongue, now Adelinia grandis, used to be called Cynoglossum grande; this will be a difficult change for many. The genus name Cynoglossum is from the Greek words for dog (kynos) and tongue (glossa). The name Cynoglossum was originally published by the father of taxonomy himself, Carl Linnaeus, in 1753, ostensibly referring to the shape and rough texture of the plant’s basal leaves.
In 2015, James I. Cohen, assistant professor of botany at Weber State University in Ogden, UT, published a study of the genus Cynoglossum, part of his broader research on the Boraginaceae family. Through molecular phylogenetic analysis (evaluating the evolutionary relationships between organisms by comparing their DNA sequences), Dr. Cohen determined that some species of Cynoglossum, including the California natives, belong to different evolutionary lineages. Based on their differences, he proposed moving the two native California Cynoglossum species into two new genera: Adelinia and Andersonglossum. Dr. Cohen’s proposed name changes have now been accepted, and Calflora’s database now reflects the changes.
Cynoglossum grande, hound’s tongue, is our sole East Bay species. It is now Adelinia grandis, named by Dr. Cohen after his young daughter, Adeline, “who makes every day better.” Cynoglossum occidentale, western hound’s tongue, is a plant found mostly in conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada and the mountains of Northern California and is now called Andersonglossum occidentale. Dr. Cohen named this new genus to honor William Russell Anderson (1942–2013), American botanist, professor, and director of the herbarium at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, when Dr. Cohen attended. Dr. Cohen honored Dr. Anderson as “an incomparable professor, botanist, and person, who inspired me to study plant systematics.”
The one sure thing about the scientific names of plants is they will keep changing as we learn more about their evolutionary relationships. Another sure thing: visiting the Calflora Database will help you keep up with the changes.
— Cynthia Powell, Executive Director, Calflora