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Mr. Smarty Plants - Correct spelling of Passiflora caerulea

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Tuesday - August 07, 2007

From: Fair Lawn, NJ
Region: Northeast
Topic: General Botany, Non-Natives
Title: Correct spelling of Passiflora caerulea
Answered by: Barbara Medford and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

What is correct, passiflora coerulea or caerulea ?

ANSWER:

The correct scientific name is Passiflora caerulea L. The "L." at the end of the botanical name stands for Linnaeus, the 18th Century Swedish botanist who is widely considered the father of modern taxonomy. He published this species in his seminal work, Species Plantarum in 1753. This two-volume book is considered so important to plant taxonomy, that its publishing date is designated as the starting point for all validly published plant names.

The specific epithets, "caerulea" and "coerulea" are often confused. Both words are commonly applied to blue-flowered species. Carl von Linne (Linnaeus) published the name spelled with an "a." Compare that to the name, Aquilegia coerulea James, published by Edwin P. James in 1823. There is great confusion about this name, because herbarium specimens created by the author (James) have the specific epithet spelled "coerulea" on specimens held in some herbaria and "caerulea" in others. However, only one herbarium specimen is considered the "type" specimen for that species. That specimen assigns the name Aquilegia coerulea.

Passiflora caerulea, Blue Crown Passionflower is a native of Peru and Brazil, early introduced by the natives to Spanish soldiers and taken by them back to Spain, where it was used for medicinal purposes.

 

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