Pittonia/Volume 1/Wherefore Pittonia?

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1208030Pittonia/Volume 1 — Wherefore Pittonia?Edward Lee Greene
Wherefore Pittonia?

The foregoing pages, issued some months ago, have elicited enquiry as to the meaning and purpose of Pittonia.

Although we gave them forth in a form which implied that other pages were to follow, we had no idea that we were initiating what would be called a Journal, or be thought worthy of mention in connection with such important publications as Linnæa and Adansonia.   Therefore our friends of the editorial staff of the Torrey Bulletin and the renowned botanical editor of the American Journal of Science have done Pittonia honors little merited and wholly unexpected.

The succession of papers which we hope to continue under this title will have more or less to do with the genera and species of plants and their nomenclature.   They will therefore be quoted.  For convenience of citation they must needs have some general name; and the same necessity which calls for a name suggests the desirability of its being a short and easy one.  Pittonia as a mere name will answer all these purposes as well as Linnæa, Grevillea, Adansonia and others have done; and it will also call to mind, as each of those does, an eminent botanist.  Professor Gray could readily perceive that it comes from the family name of Tournefort, an author who is commemorated in our present generical nomenclature by the name Tournefortia.  That is the Linnæan name of the genus dedicated to the great French botanist of almost two centuries ago.  It is a longer and less euphonious name than Pittonia; and besides that, the very same genus which adorns the memory of Tournefort was originally named Pittonia by that very learned contemporary of Tournefort and eminent botanist, the Reverend Father Charles Plumier.  This was done in the year 1703, four years before Linné was born.  Thirty-four years later the rising Swedish authority arbitrarily set aside the then old and well established name Pittonia, and put his own new and more cumbrous Tournefortia in its place.

So then, the name that heads these pages is not newly coined; is far from being an original conception of the present writer.   And all this is well known to the few of our botanists who do not ignore the fact that there existed a botanical nomenclature before Linné.

The name Pittonia as here employed may do double duty as commemorative of two great pre-Linnæan botanists, the immortal Joseph Pitton of Tournefort and his illustrious colleague, Father Plumier, whose immense labors and whose valuable publications were chiefly upon the botany of tropical America.

51 Issued July 1, 1887.