Sunday 16 January 2011

A taxonomic spoof

Wild Aquilegia vulgaris, Yorkshire Dales, June 2008

This amusing spoof was posted recently to Alpine-L, the Electronic Rock Garden Society (to join, visit and is reproduced here by kind permission of its author, Mark McDonough from Massachusetts. Take it only with the humour it deserves, and please note that I (JMG) take no responsibility for the propagation of the word 'thusly'...

Revision of the Genus Aquilegia - Highlights


Wild Aquilegia canadensis, Pennsylvania, April 2009
All red-flowered "Columbines" east of the Mississippi have been reduced to a new monotypic genus Canadensuilegia canadensis.

All red-flowered "Columbines" west of the Mississippi have been reduced to a new monotypic genus Elegantuilegia elegantula.

Demiaquilegia becomes the new genus holding all of the dwarf European species (bertolonii, discolor, etc.)

Hemiaquilegia becomes the new genus holding any species with flowers half-hidden within the foliage (laramiensis) or with hemispherical flowers (fragrans).

The pre-existing genus Semiaquilegia becomes Quasiaquilegia, to make room for Semiaquilegia caerulea (the new name for A. caerulea), named thusly because it grows halfway between the east and west coasts of the

The real Semiaquilegia ecalcarata,
catching willow seed on its sticky glandular hairs, Oxford,  June 2010

Aquilegia jonesii must now be called Nanaquilegia jonesiaquilegia, a monotypic genus native to the Northern Rockies.

All dwarf Japanese species with glaucous foliage and blue flowers are now within the new genus Flabellaquilegia.

All dwarf Japanese species with glaucous foliage and white flowers arenow within the new genus Flabellalbaquilegia.

Any "Aquilegia" grown from garden collected seed is assigned to the new genus Hortaquilegia.

An indubitable "Hortaquilegia", Aquilegia States Series 'Kansas'

All common European columbines are now within the new genus Vulgaquilegia.

Aquilegia itself becomes a monotypic genus, holding only a single species. Previously known as A. vulgaris, the new name by which the single Aquilegia species must be called is Aquilegia pseudoaquilegioides. A subspecies that seeds around too much has been proposed as "ssp. vulgaris".

All new "aquilegia" species named hereafter shall be within the new genus Postaquilegia.

The genus Paraquilegia is considered null and void, and synonymous with Duplaquilegia "Nora Barlow" (syn. Malaquilegia).

A new-to-science species was found in Wasilla Alaska, it is known as Saraquilegia palinii. It is reputedly very difficult to grow and quits growing half way through the season. Regardless of its non-flowering, the plant pops up all over the place.

The mysterious Aquilegia kuhistanica & all other nursery-conjured species become Phantasmaquilegia stanica-stanica.

This revision takes precedence over all other Aquilegia taxonomic treatments.

Just kidding,

Mark McDonough

Aquilegia vulgaris 'Greenapples'

Carrie Thomas, holder of the National Plant Collection of Aquilegia, and proprietor of Touchwood Plants, had this to add, in the same fantasy spirit:

"My 'Aquilegia hybrids' Collection (covering red, pink and yellow doubles) is undergoing the validation necessary to become recognised as the new taxon of Doublaquilegia volcanica-fantasmagoricalii.

I understand some expert taxonmists are unhappy with the hyphenation within this specific epithet and/or its length. Therefore it may not be valid. Until the acceptance of this (or rejection) it is nevertheless a useful working name."

The final word went to Paige Woodward, of British Columbia: "Aquilegia s.l. to is too often confused with Aqualegia, the water plant."


  1. Highly amusing - I especially like the new Alaskan variety

  2. All aquilegias grown on ocean liners - aquitania

    All aquilegias grown by people with bad thoughts - aquimalypensia

    All aquliegias which are the subject of disputes - aquimoniousa

  3. I am frequently aquimalypensia about self-sown aquilegias in the wrong place - aquimalyplacia, perhaps.

  4. You silly lot. But a laugh just when a laugh was needed....

  5. And what joy, as well as laughing, - here I am, unable to do much with a nasty bout of 'flu - browsing that lovely Touchwood site - I want everyone of them! What have you done, JMG? Caused me to waste time I should be improving the world with....but improving my mind no end.


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