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Manual de Plantas de Costa Rica

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The Cutting Edge

Volume XXVIII, Number 1, January, 2021

News and Notes | Leaps and Bounds | Germane Literature | Season's Pick | Annotate your copy

TWISTS AND TURNS. The Code jockeys are forever monkeying with the Code, changing or modifying the rules of nomenclature, and we are inevitably the last to catch on. Sometimes these offhand tweaks can have sweeping and somewhat unsettling (perhaps even unforeseen) consequences. The most recent example (that we have so far discovered!) modifies the infernal Art. 60.11 (dealing with hyphens), with a view to clarify the statement “A hyphen is permitted only when the epithet is formed of words that usually stand independently.” Just below, under Ex. 40, appears the following new example of an epithet with a “Hyphen to be deleted”: “Eunotia rolandschmidtii Metzeltin & Lange-Bert. (Iconogr. Diatomol. 18: 117. 2007, ‘roland-schmidtii’), in which the given name and surname do not stand independently because the former is not separately latinized.” We gather that, in order for the hyphen to have been retained, this epithet would have had to be rendered as “rolandi-schmidtii,” or something akin. Innocent enough, on the surface; certainly there are no vascular plant spp. in Costa Rica with names honoring this Schmidt character. However, we do have very many spp. with epithets that would presumably be subject to this same rule, e.g., austin-smithii and (particularly) donnell-smithii. Most of the time these were hyphenated by their original authors, and if so, we always retained the hyphens, according to our interpretation of the phrase “usually stand independently” (as “Austin” and “Donnell,” on the one hand, and “Smith,” on the other, invariably do). But according to this new twist, those hyphens would have to be removed in every case, meaning that we rendered these epithets incorrectly throughout all eight volumes of the Manual (and surely we are not the only guilty party!). And incidentally, we checked, and as far as we can determine, the spellings “austini-smithii” and “donnelli-smithii” have never once been used, by anyone. It seems to us that these people, in their ivory towers, have no clue what goes on in the real world, or the extent to which their idle noodling can affect those of us in the trenches.

ARTHUR STEWART WESTON (1932–2019). We have just learned, belatedly and circuitously, of the passing of Arthur S. Weston, an icon of Costa Rican botany, on 10 July 2019. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with Costa Rican floristics will recognize Weston's name, based on his many critical collections from the higher elevations of the Cordillera de Talamanca, mainly from 1964–1969. Granted, Weston was not the first to collect plants in the high Talamancas; that honor goes to Swiss botanist (based in Munich) Walter Kupper (1874–1953), who attained the summit of Cerro Chirripó Grande in 1932 (when he was 57 years old!). But Weston roamed more widely, visiting many remote subsidiary peaks and valleys, and leaving an indelible mark. We have heard apocryphal tales of his solitary rambles, well before the age of cell phones and GPS devices, carrying only a bedroll and (presumably) a plant press. The genus Westoniella (Asteraceae) was dedicated to Arthur Weston (fittingly, as he collected at least five of its six spp.), as were several spp. in other genera. We have come to realize, upon reflection, how little we really know of this reclusive and enigmatic character. Here is one thing we do know: during his heyday working in Costa Rica, Weston was a graduate student at UC Berkeley. Here is a photo, taken of him there, in 1968:


Weston would have been an older grad student, roughly 36 years of age at the time the photo was taken. We are not certain what department he was in, the identity of his advisor, the title of his dissertation, when he graduated, or whether he ever published anything regarding his work in Costa Rica. We know that he also collected plants during the same period (1967–1969) in Colombia's isolated Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, and that somewhat later he was employed briefly (1971–1974) as a plant ecologist at the Western Australian Herbarium (PERTH). Of course, Weston botanized some in Australia as well, and at least two spp. down under were named in his honor. However, we are ignorant of his institutional affiliation (if any) after that time, as well as his nationality (American? Australian?) and the location of his death (though it seems to have been reported only in Australian publications). The few obituaries we have seen are mum on all of these details—which only serves to pique our curiosity even more! Does anyone out there know anything else? We are all ears!


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