John Dawson

This is the first in a series of articles profiling the careers of those who have had mushrooms named after them. A few mushrooms have common names that are eponyms — Caesar’s mushroom, Berkeley’s polypore, Ravenel’s stinkhorn— but many more bear eponymous scientific names, in which either the name of the genus (Galiella, Hohenbuehelia, Rozites, Underwoodia), the specific epithet (atkinsoniana, booniana, cokeri, schweinitzii) or both are derived from the surname of a person, usually that of a mycologist.

Many biologists object to naming creatures after people, on the grounds that such names have no descriptive value and merely reflect human vanity. But names that are not eponymous aren’t always descriptive either. (For example, what does Lycoperdon — Latin for ‘wolf fart’ —tell us about a puffball?) And not all eponyms are flattering; indeed, some (such as Brefeldia maxima, the name of a particularly ugly slime mold) were intended to be defamatory! In any case, it is natural in any field of human endeavor to want to memorialize the contributions of major figures, and naming entities (creatures, theorems, devices, even syndromes and diseases) after such people is one way of doing so. That practice helps to guide those interested in the history of a subject to the life stories of some remarkable individuals, and that is the aim of the series of articles to follow, which were inspired by my reading of Barbara and Richard Mearnes’ Audubon to Xantus (Academic Press, 1992), a compendium of biographical vignettes of those who have been commemorated in names of North American birds.

There are, however, many more species of mushrooms than there are of birds. So before focusing on particular individuals who have had mushrooms named for them, it is necessary to restrict the focus of inquiry. For, strictly speaking, the scientific name of every mushroom includes the name of at least one person. That is so because the scientific names of fungi conform to the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, according to which the complete scientific name of an organism consists of an italicized Latin binomial (the taxonomic device introduced by Linnaeus in his Species Plantarum of 1753) together with the name (in roman type) of the authority who applied that binomial to it. In succeeding installments, I shall focus on eponymous Latin binomials. For the benefit of interested readers, however, the rest of this article is devoted to explaining how to interpret citations of authorities, and what their purpose is.

Many field guides, including David Arora’s Mushrooms Demystified and George Barron’s Mushrooms of Northeast North America, omit the names of authorities, even when they give synonyms (see below) for some of the names adopted therein. Others, such as Gary Lincoff’s National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms and Bessettes’ and Fischer’s Mushrooms of Northeastern North America, include them. Most amateur users of such guides take little notice of the citations of authorities, but for those concerned with taxonomy the citations serve two useful purposes: They help one to find descriptions of species in the technical literature, and for binomial names that have been altered, they indicate to whom the original species epithet is due and who placed the species into a different genus.

How citations of authorities are to be given is specified in the ICBN. The details are somewhat complicated, because of the need to allow flexibility within the Code to accommodate both advances in scientific knowledge and legitimate differences of opinion among specialists. To begin with, some starting point for taxonomy had to be agreed upon. For gasteromycetes, rusts and smuts the starting point for scientific binomials are those given by the South African botanist Christiaan Hendrik Persoon in his 1801 book Synopsis Methodica Fungorum . For all other fungi it is the names given by the Swedish botanist Elias Magnus Fries in his Systema Mycologium of 1821. That does not mean that Persoon and Fries are given credit for having named all the species described in their books; but no binomial in use before the appearance of those books is considered valid unless it was adopted by Persoon or Fries. For cases in which those authors retained a binomial that had originally been applied to a species by someone else, a special provision is made to make clear the original source for the name.

The following examples illustrate the possibilities. The puffball Lycoperdon perlatum was first described by Persoon (either in his 1801 book or later). That binomial has been applied to it ever since, so its complete scientific name is simply Lycoperdon perlatum Persoon . Similarly, Cantharellus cibarius Fries shows that Fries was the first to describe that chanterelle, and that it has retained the name he gave it. Likewise, the name Agaricus placomyces Peck denotes a species first named and described by the American mycologist Charles Horton Peck after the appearance of Fries’ book. On the other hand, Cyathus striatus was named before 1801, and Agaricus campestris before 1821. Those names were adopted in the books by Persoon and Fries, respectively, so they remained valid afterward. But how should credit be given to those who originally proposed the names (William Hudson and Linnaeus, respectively)? Either of two citation formats are used: The authorities may be cited either as Hudson ex Persoon and Linneaus ex Fries, or more succinctly as Hudson: Persoon and Linneaus: Fries. In this regard, note that names that Persoon gave to species other than gasteromycetes before 1821 are only valid if Fries chose to retain them. Since Fries did so in many cases, the citation Persoon ex Fries (often abbreviated as Pers ex. Fr.) is frequently encountered.

So far, so good. But what if different investigators happen to apply the same binomial to different fungi; or what if different names are given to the same fungus at different times or by different investigators, as is so often the case?

The former are called homonyms and are treated according to the rule of priority: Only the fungus to which the name was first applied can remain so designated; all others must be renamed. The latter are called synonyms, and are more problematic. It is not the purpose of the Code to adjudicate among them, but only to prescribe how to indicate their provenance.

Consider, for example, the Brick Cap. Fries called it Agaricus sublateritius. The French mycologist Quélet later split up the genus Agaricus and placed the Brick Cap in the new genus Hypholoma . Later still, the mycologist Karsten split up Quélet’s genus and put the Brick Cap in the new genus Naematoloma . Authors such as Bessette et al., who accept Quélet’s change, call the species Hypholoma sublateritium (Fries) Quélet . Those, such as Alexander H. Smith, who followed Karsten instead called it Naematoloma sublateritium (Fries) Karsten . In either case, the name enclosed within parentheses indicates that Fries was the person responsible for the specific epithet, while the name outside the parentheses is that of the person who moved it to the specified genus. In such cases the complete name represents a new combination: a different generic name attached to the same specific epithet. The specific epithet itself remains valid and is not changed unless the reclassification would result in a homonym. In that case the specific epithet must be changed as well, resulting either in a new name or reversion to a name given earlier (if the reclassification was due to two species formerly considered different now being deemed to be the same).

As exercises, the reader is invited to interpret the following illustrations of the principles described above: Crepidotus applanatus (Pers. ex Fr.) Kummer ; Cortinarius pholideus (Fries:Fries) Fries .

For further amusement, I highly recommend the web site "Curiosities of biological nomenclature", which I thank Gary Emberger for bringing to my attention. Its URL is http://www.curioustaxonomy.net/ , and there you will find such remarkable eponyms as Arthurdactylus conandoylensis, as well as the answer to the question: What mushroom genus shares its name with that of a genus of fishes?

Reference: "How mushrooms are named", pp. 108–117 in Alexander H. Smith, Mushrooms in Their Natural Habitat.


Appendix: Some Commonly Cited Authorities for Mushroom Names

The following list of mycological authorities is taken largely from the database of authorities for plant names maintained by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England. Standard abbreviations for the names listed are printed in boldface. See also the entry "Authors’ names" in Ainsworth & Bisby’s Dictionary of the Fungi.

Adam Afzelius (1750-1837)

Johannes Baptista von Albertini (1769-1831)

George Francis Atkinson (1854-1918)

Charles David Badham (1806-1857)

Frederic Bataille (1850-1946)

August Johann Georg Karl Batsch (1761-1802)

Giovanni Antonio Battarra (1714-1789)

Miles Joseph Berkeley (1803-1889)

James Bolton (1758-1799)

Appolonaris Semyonovich Bondartsev [Bondarzew] (1857-1968)

Hermann Friedrich Bonorden (1801-1884)

Jean Louis Emile Boudier (1828-1920)

Julius Oscar Brefeld (1839-1925)

Giacopo Bresadola (1847-1929)

Francesco Briganti (1802-1865)

Vincenzo Briganti (1766-1836)

Louis de Brondeau (1794-1859)

Christopher Edmund Broome (1812-1866)

Jean Baptiste Francois Bulliard (1752-1793)

Mordecai Cubitt Cooke (1825-1914)

William Chambers Coker (1872-1953)

Moses Ashley Curtis (1808-1872)

Augustin Pyramus De Candolle (1778-1841)

John Baptiste Henri Joseph Desmazieres (1786-1862)

Nicaise Auguste Desvaux (1784-1856)

James J. Dickson (1738-1822)

Johann Jacob Dillenius (1684-1747)

L.P. Fr. Ditmar (fl. 1806-1817)

Franklin Sumner Earle (1856-1929)

Job Bicknell Ellis (1829-1905)

Elias Magnus Fries (1794-1878)

Karl Wilhelm Gottlieb Leopold Fuckel (1821-1876)

Leon Gaston Genevier (1830-1880)

Claude-Casimir Gillet (1806-1896)

Robert Kaye Greville (1794-1866)

Harvey Wilson Harkness (1821-1901)

Paul Christoph Hennings (1841-1908)

Ludwig Samuel Joseph David Alexander von Hohenbühel Heufler (1817-1885)

Theodor Holmskjold (1732-1794)

William Hudson (1730-1793)

Nicolaus Joseph von Jacquin (1727-1817)

Franz Wilhelm Junghuhn (1809-1864)

Karoly Kalchbrenner (1807-1886)

Gustav Karl Wilhelm Hermann Karsten (1817-1908)

Petter Adolf Karsten (1834-1917)

Calvin Henry Kauffmann (1869-1931)

Johann Friedrich Klotzsch (1805-1860)

Julius Vincenz von Krombholz (1782-1843)

Wilhelm Gottfried Lasch (1787-1863)

Harald Othmar Lenz (1798-1870)

Jean Baptiste Louis Letellier (1817-1898)

Joseph-Henri Léveillé (1796-1870)

Friedrich Wilhelm von Leysser (1731-1815)

Karl von Linné (Linnaeus) (1707-1778)

Curtis Gates Lloyd (1859-1926)

George Edward Massee (1850-1917)

Pier Antonio Micheli (1679-1737)

Jean Pierre Francois Camille Montagne (1784-1866)

Andrew Price Morgan (1836-1907)

William Alphonso Murrill (1869-1957)

Christian Gottfried Daniel Nees von Esenbeck (1776-1858)

Wilhelm Opatowski (1810-1838)

Narcisse Theophile Patouillard (1854-1926)

Jean Jacques Paulet (1740-1826)

Charles Horton Peck (1833-1917)

Christiaan Hendrik Persoon (1761-1837)

Lucien Quélet (1832-1899)

Gottlob Ludwig Rabenhorst (1806-1881)

Henry William Ravenel (1814-1887)

Richard Relhan (1754-1823)

Anders Jahan Retzius (1724-1821)

Charles Eduard Richon (1820-1893)

Friedrich Wilhelm Gottfried Theophil Rostkovius (1770-1848)

Ernest Roze (1833-1900)

Pier Andrea Saccardo (1845-1920)

Jacob Christian Schaeffer (1718-1790)

Joseph Schröter (1837-1894)

Heinrich Christian Friedrich Schumacher (1757-1830)

Lewis David von Schweinitz (1780-1834)

Joannes Antonius Scopoli (1723-1788)

Louis Secretan (1758-1839)

Rolf Singer (1906- )

Alexander Hanchett Smith (1904-1986)

Soren Christian Sommerfelt (1794-1838)

James Sowerby (1757-1822)

Roland Thaxter (1857-1932)

Louis Rene Tulasne (1815-1885)

Lucien Marcus Underwood (1853-1907)

Antonio Venturi (1805-1864)

Carlo Vittadini (1800-1865)

Domenico Viviani (1772-1840)

Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Wallroth (1792-1857)

Johann Anton Weinmann (1782-1858)

Carl Ludwig von Willdenow (1765-1812)

Franz Xavier von Wulfen (1728-1805)