Herbarium Type Specimens


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Scientists publish scientific plant names to recognize new entities such as species, subspecies, varieties and forms. A nomenclatural type specimen is a herbarium sheet(s) or illustration to which the name of a taxon (species, genus, subspecies, variety, etc.) is permanently assigned. The name may be currently accepted as valid and in use for a particular plant entity or treated as a synonymous name. I.e., a name used for the same plant entity that already has a prior name. The type specimen chosen for the name is not necessarily the typical or representative element of a taxon (International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi, and Plants (Melbourne Code), 2012). Type specimens coupled with published descriptions may be considered the foundation of botanical nomenclature.

Publication of scientific plant names and the designation of type specimens follows the rules developed at the Internation Botanical Congress. Current rules, International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi, and Plants (Melbourne Code), 2012, require that a single type specimen be designated at the time of publication (holotype). Duplicates of the specimen with the same collector and number (from a single gathering at the same location and time) are considered isotypes. Additional specimens cited are called paratypes. However, early in the history of botanical nomenclature, the designation of specific specimens as types was not required and even multiple specimens could be cited (syntypes). Scientific names are evaluated as being validly published based on the applicable rules of the period. When the rules did not require types to be cited and an original author did not cite a type or cited multiple specimens current researchers are authorized to select a lectotype from the material the original author is presumed to have had available.

The number of type specimens at the University of Florida Herbarium is not known. Type specimens were formerly intermingled within the general collections and a list of them was never kept. Furthermore, many of the type specimens do not have any markings on them to indicate that they are types. We are now discovering these specimens through routine collection use and literature review.

This work-in-progress currently enumerates about 953 types. Hundreds of bryophyte and lichen types are currently being researched for addition. Types included are: holotypes, isotypes, lectotypes, isolectotypes, neotypes, isoneotypes, syntypes, isosyntypes, epitypes, isoepitypes, paratypes, "cultivar types", "clonotypes" and types whose designation has not yet been determined. Definitions for the type terminologies used in our site are below. Guidelines for annotation of type specimens may be found in the UF Herbarium web page, "Annotation of Type Specimens: Recommendations," by Kent D. Perkins and Wendy B. Zomlefer. High resolution digital images are being linked in as available for all of our type specimens.

Type Terms Used In This Site (partially based on International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi, and Plants (Melbourne Code), 2012, Chapter II, Section 2, Article 9)

  • Holotype: the one specimen* or illustration used by the author, or designated by the author as the nomenclatural type.
  • Isotype: any duplicate specimen of the holotype.
  • Lectotype: a specimen or illustration designated as the type when no holotype was indicated at the time of publication. If possible, the lectotype should be selected from the syntypes or original material.
  • Isolectotype: any duplicate specimen of the lectotype.
  • Syntype: any one of two or more specimens cited in the protologue when no holotype was designated, or any one of two or more specimens simultaneously designated as types in the original description. Monographers are urged to select a lectotype from among the syntypes whenever possible.
  • Isosyntype: a duplicate specimen of a syntype.
  • Neotype: a specimen or illustration selected as the type when all of the material on which the name of the taxon was based is missing.
  • Isoneotype: any duplicate specimen of the neotype.
  • Paratype: a specimen cited in the protologue that is neither the holotype, isotype, nor one of the syntypes. These are often listed as representative specimens in the original description.
  • Epitype: "a specimen or illustration selected to serve as an interpretative type when the holotype, lectotype, or previously designated neotype, or all original material associated with a validly published name, is demonstrably ambiguous and cannot be critically identified for purposes of the precise application of the name of a taxon." (ICBN Ch. 2, Sec. 2, Art. 9.7) The holotype, lectotype, or neotype that the epitype supports must be explicitly cited when the epitype is designated (see Art. 9.18).
  • Isoepitype: a duplicate specimen of an epitype.
  • Type**: specimens which are believed to be a type but the exact type status has not been researched or determined.
  • Photo of a Type**: a photograph of a type specimen.
  • Cultivar type: the so-called "type" specimen of a horticultural cultivar. Some such specimens have been called clonotypes by researchers, but we use a different definition for that term (below).
  • Clonotype**: used in our database to denote "a specimen taken from a vegetatively propagated part of the individual plant from which the type specimen was obtained" as defined in: Fernald, H.T. 1939. On type nomenclature. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 32(4): 689-702, p. 693.
  • Topotype**: a specimen collected from the same location the original holotype material was collected.
  • Non-type: specimens which are erroneously labelled as types should be annotated as, "Not a Type."

* The terms specimen and duplicate are given their usual meaning in herbarium curatorial practice. A specimen and its duplicates are part of a single gathering of a single species or infraspecific taxon made by a collector at one time. Although not specifically stated in ICN, the specimen and its duplicates should all have the same collector number.

** These terms are commonly used but are not officially designated in the International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi, and Plants (Melbourne Code), 2012.

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