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Problems and solutions



Problems in bamboo nomenclature have usually arisen because no adequate type was defined for a particular bamboo name, which was consequently misinterpreted, or because earlier names were overlooked and later names came into widespread use instead. Clarification of the typification, i.e. defining a type that will fix the application of a name, is often sufficient to clear up such problems. This method has for example been applied in Bambusa bambos, to sort out the confusion over whether that name should really be applied to the Indian thorny bamboo or to Bambusa vulgaris instead. A recognizable and well preserved type from Sri Lanka has been designated, one of Hermann’s collections from c. 1672 - 1677, from which it would appear Linnaeus described the first bamboo name ever validly published, Arundo bambos L., in 1753.

Since 1994 the powerful process of nomenclatural conservation and rejection have been expanded and applied more widely. Applying this process, the use of a later name can now be sanctioned even though it is technically incorrect, on the grounds that it has become widely used. This is a stronger measure than typification and is proving very useful in the bamboos to sort out conflicts between technically correct names and more widely used names that were published later. In this way an overlooked name that was published earlier, and thus strictly has priority, is basically binned on the grounds that it is not very widely used, and it is best forgotten. Either that name is listed as rejected, or the more widely used name is listed as conserved, depending upon the particular circumstances. Bambusa was conserved long ago against the earlier name Bambos. Thyrsostachys siamensis has more recently been conserved against the earlier, but largely overlooked name Thyrsostachys regia.

For bamboos this process is particularly appropriate as many species were initially described from flowers alone, often collected in unrecorded localities or very remote areas. Such species have often been described a second time from vegetative material collected elsewhere, without their authors realizing that the species already had a name. This would appear to be the case for Fargesia murieliae, and conservation of that name was proposed (scroll down to article labelled F 1711 on pp. 231-232) and has now been approved against the earlier name Fargesia sparsiflora, which several authorities consider to be the same species. No doubt many other species will require this approach as they become better known, and collection sites for earlier flower-based names are revisited.

The conservation or rejection of the name has to be proposed in the journal Taxon and a committee of leading botanists has to be convinced that the procedure is fully justified. Sometimes they can instead approve a less dramatic alternative solution to the problem, and formally endorse some other action, as in Pleioblastus viridistriatus, where the Committee declared that Bambusa viridistriata André is indeed the same name as Bambusa viridistriata Regel. Therefore it, and names based on it are not illegitimate, and can be used, although authorship should be given as Regel. Arundinaria auricoma and names based on it are no longer required. This is well summarised in the TROPICOS results for a Search on Bambusa viridistriata, cf. IPNI.


Additional sources of information


  • Types are included in the TROPICOS database at Missouri Botanical Garden



  • Proposals to conserve or reject names are listed in an online database at the Smithsonian Institution



Specific epithets and their endings

Having decided which name to use, a combination of genus and specific epithet, another problem that often arises is how to spell the epithet, especially its ending, which has to be correct in terms of gender (male, female, neuter) and case (nominative or genitive).

There are 3 ways of forming the epithet according to ICBN:

1. Using an adjective, in the nominative

This is the most common way of making a name. For example, the Arundinaria with sickle-shaped flowers was described using the adjective falcatus, meaning sickle-shaped. As Arundinaria is feminine, the adjective is given the female ending and is thus declined falcata, giving the name Arundinaria falcata. When this was moved into Thamnocalamus, a male generic name, the adjective was given a male ending, to become Thamnocalamus falcatus. When moved into Drepanostachyum it became Drepanostachyum falcatum, with a neuter ending, because Drepanostachyum is a neuter generic name. Both the genus and specific epithet are in the nominative case.

Adjectival epithets are also commonly derived from the name of a person associated with the plant, a procedure that is often honorific, e.g. Arundinaria hookeriana, in honour of botanist J.D. Hooker, with synonyms Drepanostachyum hookerianum and Himalayacalamus hookerianus arising when the species was moved into those genera, the epithet being appropriately declined in accordance with the gender of the genera.

Many epithets are adjectives that have been specially developed from a noun for the naming of organisms, with a sufix as well as an ending added. They usually relate to localities (with a suffix such as -ensis, -anus, -icus added e.g. Bambusa nepalensis ‘Nepalese Bambusa), or habitats in which they grow, with e.g. -cola, -alis, -arius added, e.g. Chusquea paludicola ‘Marsh-dwelling Chusquea’ from palus ‘marsh’. As with ordinary adjectives the adjectival suffix has to be declined with the correct adjectival ending according to the gender of the genus, e.g. Pleioblastus hupehensis became Oligostachyum hupehense when moved from a male to a neuter genus.


2. Using a noun, in the genitive

In Latin, possession is indicated by use of the genitive case, which has a different set of endings. These are most commonly derived from the name of an individual associated with the plant, e.g. Chusquea renvoizei - ‘Renvoize’s Chusquea’, Dendrocalamus hookeri - ‘Hooker’s Dendrocalamus’, Phyllostachys maudiae - Maud’s Phyllostachys, Fargesia murieliae - Muriel’s Fargesia. Complicated rules govern these endings, according to classical or traditional Latinization of peoples’ names.

They can also derive from habitats, uses, peoples, and, infrequently, localities.

 Bambusa dumetorum from dumetum meaning ‘Bambusa of the thorn scrub’

 Bambusa piscaporum from piscis and capio ‘Bambusa of fishing’

 Yushania aztecorum - ‘Yushania of the Aztecs’

 Guadua venezuelae - ‘Guadua of Venezuela’


3. Using a noun, ‘in apposition’

This rare situation can occur where the epithet is similar in importance to the genus, the classic zoological example being Panthera leo, in which case both genus and species are nouns, side by side, both remaining in the nominative case. It can also simply be where the specific epithet is from a non-Latin language in which it could never be declined with Latin style endings, e.g. Gigantochloa manggong.


According to ICBN, If the published ending of the epithet is not in accordance with these requirements, then it is to be corrected, although the word from which it is derived is not to be changed.

For example Fargesia frigidis T.P. Yi was named with an ablative ending on the noun frigidum, to give the meaning ‘from cold regions’, but ablative endings are not allowed. It has to be corrected to the genitive frigidorum meaning ‘of cold regions’, and is written in full as Fargesia frigidorum T.P. Yi. [as frigidis]. Although many plants have been given an epithet from the adjective frigidus (frigidus, frigida, or frigidum according to gender), Yi’s use instead of an epithet from the noun frigidum has to be followed, to give Fargesia frigidorum and Borinda frigidorum, in the same manner as Valeriana frigidorum Gand.


Examples of recent nomenclatural actions:

  • PDF link to full paper, abstract or draft in Adobe Acrobat
  • Subs.  journal subscription required.


Xia, N. H. & Stapleton, C. M. A. (1997). Typification of Bambusa bambos (Gramineae, Bambusoideae). Kew Bull. 52(3): 693–698. PDF (Draft) Includes image of type.


Stapleton, C. M. A. (1998). Proposal to conserve the name Thyrsostachys siamensis Gamble against the name Thyrsostachys regia (Munro) Bennet (Poaceae, Bambusoideae). Taxon 47(3): 739–740. Subs. PDF Draft.


Stapleton, C. M. A. (1998). Nomenclatuur van Peioblastus viridistriatus/auricomus. Nieusbrief European Bamboo Society Afdeling Nederland 8(4): 11–14. PDF Draft (English), PDF Draft (Dutch)


Stapleton, C. M. A. (1998). Bambusa fortunei and Bambusa variegata: competing basionyms for the white-variegated dwarf leptomorph bamboo currently placed in Arundinaria, Pleioblastus, or Sasa. Bamboo Soc. (GB) Newsletter 31: 36–40. PDF Draft


Stapleton, C. M. A. (2000). Typification of Indocalamus tessellatus, Phyllostachys bambusoides var albomarginata, Sasa veitchii, and the genus Sasa. Taxon 49(2): 235–238; & Erratum in Taxon 49(3): 631. Subs. PDF Draft


Stapleton, C. M. A. (2000). Typification of the generic name Sasamorpha. Taxon 49: 545–6. Subs. PDF Draft


Stapleton, C. M. A. & Renvoize, S.A. (2001). Proposal to conserve the name Bambusa viridistriata Siebold ex André (Poaceae, Bambusoideae). Taxon 50(3): 911–913. PDF Draft.


Stapleton, C. M. A. (2003). Proposal to limit the scope of Recommendation 60C.2. Taxon 52: 635. PDF


Stapleton, C. M. A., & Xia, N. H. (2004). Qiongzhuea and Dendrocalamopsis (Poaceae-Bambusoideae): publication by descriptio generico-specifico and typification. Taxon 53: 526-528. SubsPDF Draft


Stapleton, C. M. A. (2006). Proposal to conserve the name Arundinaria murieliae Gamble against A. sparsiflora (Poaceae, Bambusoideae). Taxon 55(1): 231–232. PDF (free at Taxon website)


Stapleton, C. M. A. & Zijlstra, G. (201-). Neo- and epitypification of Arundinaria nitida (Poaceae, Bambusoideae) Submitted to Taxon March 2014.


Stapleton, C. M. A. (200-). (***–***) Proposal to amend Article 33 to explicitly include generic names with presumed basionyms. Submitted for Taxon Oct 30 2003 and comments received. Not sure if still relevant. PDF



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