Art by Alexander Vasiljev, Copyright © 2015

Saturday, October 24, 2015


In my earlier article TAXONOMY NOTES ON FUURAN. WHAT IS THE REAL NAME?, I focused on explaining the evolution of the botanical scientific name (specific binomial name) for Neofinetia falcata, currently classified as Vanda falcata, also known as FUURAN in Japanese. The purpose of this article is to understand the nomenclature of selected "varieties" or "forms" of Neofinetia falcata like, for example, 'Tamakongo'. To avoid confusion, I will be referring the orchid of our interest in the "old fashioned" way: Neofinetia falcata.

First off, based on "Checklist of Selected Plant Families" published and edited by the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, there is no botanical variety or form currently identified for Neofinetia falcata. Variety (not as a legal term) and form are both the lowest taxonomic ranks, used after genus and species names. Two different varieties of the same species are usually geographically separated and have different enough characteristics, but will hybridize with one aother when crossed.

Second, let's understand the basic nomenclature of plants' scientific names. Please accept this very simplified explanation, as there is much more to it and will not be covered here.

A simple scientific name of a plant is compiled of GENUS NAME + SPECIES NAME + ORIGINAL AUTHOR + PUBLICATION. If the species name has been changed, the original author's name is placed in parentheses, followed by the new author's name, who made the taxonomic revision (shown in orange), followed by the source of publication of that taxonomic revision (shown in pink). In the examples below, notice how C.P. Thunberg's name moved to parentheses - (Thunb.):

Orchis falcata Thunb. in J.A.Murray, Syst. Veg. ed. 14: 811 (1784). was changed to
Neofinetia falcata (Thunb.) Hu, Rhodora 27: 107 (1925). , which was recently revised into
Vanda falcata (Thunb.) Beer, Prakt. Stud. Orchid.: 317 (1854).

If the species has a recognized variety, then the full scientific name is compiled as GENUS NAME + SPECIES NAME + VAR.VARIETY NAME, followed by the author's name (shown in blue) and the publication source (shown in pink). Example: Vanda lamellata var. remediosae Ames & Quisumb., Philipp. J. Sci. 52: 461 (1933).

If there is a recognized form, then it follows the variety name and abbreviated with "f." So, where does the name 'Tamakongo' have a place in all of this? To understand, we have to turn to the cultivated plant taxonomy.

"Cultivated plant taxonomy is the study of the theory and practice of the science that identifies, describes, classifies, and names cultigens—those plants whose origin or selection is primarily due to intentional human activity."  - Wikipedia

To deal with the name dilemma for man-made or man-selected plants, the terms group and cultivar were introduced. As I mentioned earlier, since there are no botanically recognized varieties or forms of Neofinetia falcata, the term cultivar is more appropriate for identifying 'Tamakongo' place in the name of Neofinetia falcata.

"A cultivar is an assemblage of plants that (a) has been selected for a particular character or combination of characters, (b) is distinct, uniform and stable in those characters, and (c) when propagated by appropriate means, retains those characters." - Cultivated Plant Code. Art. 2.2 Brickell 2009, p. 6

According to Hortax (Cultivated Plant Taxonomy Group), the cultivar name should be enclosed in single quotation marks with the first letter of each word capitalized. Unlike the scientific botanical name, the cultivar name is never written in italics. Thus, the correct horticultural name is Neofinetia falcata 'Tamakongo'. If a group of cultivars exists, the words in the group name have the first letter capitalized and the group name is placed in parentheses if used together with the cultivar's name. Neofinetia falcata 'Tamakongo' belongs to Mameba or Bean-leaf group, therefore its full horticultural name would be:

Neofinetia falcata (Mameba Group) 'Tamakongo'
Neofinetia falcata (Bean-leaf Group) 'Tamakongo'

Although, a simplified name like Neofinetia falcata 'Tamakongo' is acceptable and it could be optional to include the group's name.

There is one more necessary requirement in naming Neofinetia falcata cultivars. As for all Neofinetia of Japanese origin, their cultivar names are written in romaji for non-Japanese speakers, for example 'Tamakongo'. Romaji is a method of writing Japanese words from the Roman alphabet. There are several romaji systems in use, resulting in different romanization styles. Therefore, if the cultivar name is written in romaji, it is important that it is followed by the same name written in kanji characters. The same should apply to Korean and Chinese names. Thus, the final example and the most accepted way of writing the FUUKIRAN name in English based on Western botanical and horticultural point of view is:
Neofinetia falcata 'Tamakongo' 玉金剛 
Vanda falcata 'Tamakongo' 玉金剛 (for those who accept the change)

I encourage the use of the term cultivar instead of variety or form, to identify the many "faces" of Neofinetia falcata.

Any comments are welcome!


  1. Interesting article. I have seen AOS awarded plants written as Vanda falcata hort. var. Tamagawa. It would be interesting to see if there an official AOS policy.

  2. Thank you for reading. The AOS uses standard that they chose. The scientific names that AOS uses are synchronized with "Checklist of Selected Plant Families" (Kew Royal Botanic Gardens). So if Neofinetia is currently recognized as Vanda, that's what AOS will use. Further, instead of 'Tamagava' they chose to use horticultural variety in abbreviation, as hort.var. Tamagava. Unfortunately, there is no one agreed way of using nomenclature.

  3. One of the questions I have is what would be the name of the seedlings of 'Tamagawa' be. I have seen in the market seedlings of 'Hisui' x self being sold as 'Hisui'.
    This would like x selfing 'Red Delicious' apple and selling its seedlings as 'Red Delicious' which isn't correct since any cross creates a new cultivar.

  4. Here are some of my thought and the answer to your (NeoNut) question