Finally a Family Name: Hostaceae!
W. George Schmid, Tucker, Georgia
   The naming of plants as well as the naming of plant families is a very complex process. Botanists of yesteryear did not have the analytical tools we have today and used primarily morphology as a base for plant classification. Nowadays, modern evolutionary biology (also referred to as phylogenetics) has new methods to determine the evolutionary relationship among groups of organisms. The primary tools used are molecular sequencing data and morphological data matrices. The genus Hosta saw a plethora of name changes before the name for the genus Hosta was validly instituted in 1905. Likewise, the family name for the genus Hosta saw many changes until Brian Mathew (1988) validly published the family name Hostaceae. He based his supporting data on the research of R.M.T. Dahlgreen (Dahlgreen, Clifford and Yeo, 1985).
First, a little naming history: 
A name for the genus.

The German naturalist Engelbert Kaempfer made the first Hosta drawings in 1692. One was identified as Yoksan, vulgo Gibboosi (original drawing No. 52) and the other was given the name Gibboosi altera (original drawing No. 166). The names Kaempfer used were not family names or generic names. They were based on the Japanese name for Hosta, namely Gibōshi The meaning of Joksan  is unknown, but it may have originated from the Chinese name for Hosta plantaginea, which is cultivated in China under the name Yu-san The Japanese translation of Yu-San is Tamano-kanzashi which means "jewel of the hairpiece" (Maekawa 1940) and is in fact the Japanese name for H. plantaginea. Vulgo Giboosi means the "common hosta," while Giboosi altera translates to "other hosta." The Swedish naturalist Carl Peter Thunberg travelled to London to inspect the Japanese collection of Kaempfer. Thunberg noticed the lack of botanical names, so assigned the binomial Aletris japonica. Thus, Aletris was the first generic name used for Hosta (Thunberg 1980). It was not long before this arrangement was found to be rather unnatural. Today, Aletris is a genus name in the Liliaceae (Lily Family) applied to plants native to North America. One of these plants is commonly known as colicroot or colic weed. Long ago, it was used by American Natives for medicinal purposes. Thunberg (1784) transferred the genus to Hemerocallis (Daylily) and this transfer started a long-standing association between these genera. Looking at drawings 52 and 166, it is obvious that these plants were not what we now know as day lilies (Hemerocallis). Trattinnick (1812) proposed the first independent generic name Hosta and included a Latin diagnosis. He also moved the three species from Hemerocallis to Hosta, as Hosta japonica, H. lancifolia, and H. caerulea. However, transfer of these names was made without mentioning synonyms or descriptions so was for these reasons illegitimate under the nomenclature rules. The naming was still rather confusing because the names Hemerocallis japonica and Hosta japonica were at the same time applied to Hosta plantaginea, H. 'Tokudama' and H. 'Lancifolia', which caused much confusion.
   Voss (1896) validated the epithet (species name) japonica (based on Hemerocallis japonica Thunberg 1784 and Aletris japonica Thunberg 1780) as part of the genus Hosta. However, as often happens in nomenclature, one wrong added letter in the generic name can invalidate the name. Since Voss spelled the combination "Hostia japonica," it was rejected as invalid. It should be no surprise that Trattinnick's name Hosta caerulea is also problematic. Caerulea was certainly the first validly published epithet to be applied to Hosta ventricosa as Hemerocallis caerulea by Andrews (1797) but the combination Hosta caerulea is illegitimate because an earlier homonym exists against it under H. caerulea Jaquin (1797 = Cornutia caerulea (Jaquin) Moldenke). The International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN) states that a name is illegitimate if it is a later homonym, that is, if it is spelled exactly like a name based on a different type that was previously and validly published for a taxon (species) of the same rank. Therefore, under the 1930 homonymy rules of the (ICBN), Trattinnick's name is also invalid. 

Joksan, vulgo Gibboosi = H. lancifolia (drawing No. 52)

Drawing by Engelbert Kaempfer (1651–1716) in the Sloan Collection in the British Museum. In 1712, he published his Amoenitates Exoticae, which included two hostas: Joksan, vulgo Giboosi and Giboosi altera. Kaempfer's drawings of these species are now in the Sloan Collection of the British Museum.

Gibboosi altera = H. ‘Tokudama’(drawing No. 166)
Drawing by Engelbert Kaempfer (1651–1716) in the Sloan Collection (No. 166)
In the British Museum.

   Under Hosta, the names H. japonica and H. caerulea were placed on a list of rejected names per Article 69 of the ICBN or, at least, considered ambiguous names. Only H. ‘Lancifolia’ still figures in Hosta nomenclature but it represents a sterile, nonperpetuating hybrid and so has joined the ranks of cultivar names and has been reduced to cultivar rank in accordance with the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants.
   The generic name Hosta itself is a later homonym. Our favorite name "Hosta" is in actuality an "illegitimate name" by today's taxonomic rules and we would have to find another name for the genus.
Fortunately, in 1905 taxonomists of yesteryear got together at the International Botanical Congress (IBC) of Vienna and decided to do something about this confusing "naming game." When two names exist for the same genus, in our case Funkia and Hosta, one of these names can be conserved and take precedence over the other name in botanical nomenclature. Today we know that the name Hosta won and that is why we no longer use the name Funkia. The Germans and Scandinavians still use "Funkie" as a horticultural name for Hosta, but they have settled on Hosta as the correct botanical generic name. When hosta aficionados talk about species, they usually apply the morphological species concept, defined as a population or group of populations that differs morphologically from other populations. For example, we can distinguish between a daylily and a hosta because they have different flowers. Species have been identified and defined in this way since well before the beginning of recorded history. The morphological species concept is criticized because more recent genetic data reveal that genetically distinct populations may look very similar, i.e., have a similar morphology. On the other hand, large morphological differences sometimes exist between very closely related populations, when chromosome data is applied. Nonetheless, most species known have been described solely from morphological data.
   In Hosta nomenclature, each species is assigned a formal, scientific name, for example: Hosta ventricosa. In the example, Hosta is the genus name and ventricosa is the species epithet. Species are the basic rank of all living beings on Earth, from the tiniest virus or microbe to humans. Certainly, in this commentary we deal with the Plant Kingdom. Biological classification is based on the work of Carl von Linné (born as Carl Nilsson Linnæus, 1707 ― 1778), a Swedish botanist, who laid the foundations for modern binomial nomenclature. His system of naming plants (also known as “Linnaean taxonomy”) is still used as the basis for plant taxonomy. Accordingly, the ICBN uses a legal definition that elevates species to be a fundamental unit of study in plant taxonomy (the practice of classifying plants) and given a name in accordance with the articles and rules of the ICBN. A number of species make up a genus, and each succeeding higher rank is so nested into the next higher rank, genera into family, families into order, orders into classes, classes into division and all of these combined make up and are nested into the Plant Kingdom. The ICBN allows species to be further subdivided into subspecies, varieties, and forms. The principal higher ranks can also be subdivided further, i.e., Division into Superdivision and Subdivision as seen in the following overall ranking and placement of taxa for Hosta. In the ICBN, this order is fixed and cannot be altered: 
Kingdom: Plantae (Regnum Plantae)
     Subkingdom: Tracheobionta (Vascular Plants)
          Superdivision: Spermatophyta (Seed Plants)
               Division: Magnoliophyta (Flowering Plants)
                    Subdivision: Magnoliophytina (Seeds enclosed in ovary - fruit)
                         Class: Liliopsida (Monocotyledons)
                              Subclass: Liliidae
   Below the rank of subclass Liliidae, two differing major viewpoints exist for classifying the genus Hosta, one in the order of Liliales based on its classic position in the Lily Family and the other in the order of Asparagales based on more recent molecular investigations:
[Hosta under Liliales]
 
Order: Liliales
     Family: Hostaceae
          Genus: Hosta
               Hosta species
[Hosta under Asparagales]
 
Order: Asparagales
     Family: Hostaceae
          Genus: Hosta
               Hosta species
   It should be noted, that some taxonomists still maintain the genus Hosta in the Family Liliaceae (Lily Family). EXPLANATION: In the above, the order Liliales was once considered one of the largest groups of monocots that included the genus Hosta. However, based on both molecular and morphological evidence, the order was redefined to exclude the order Asparagales (including agaves, aloes, onions, daylilies, hostas), Dioscorales (including bat flower, arrowroot, air potatoes) and Iridales (including the iris family) so the order Liliales is now a much smaller grouping of families.
   Morphological and ecological data has led to mixing together morphologically and visually different species of the same genus into a single species as proposed for Hosta by Fujita (1976). To state that H .montana is the same as H. ‘Sieboldiana’ (formerly H. sieboldiana) is not conducive to the economic importance of the genus Hosta. Even gardeners with little education in botany can separate the two plants given in the example above. After all, Hosta species and cultivars represent a genus of popular and economically important garden perennials for use in the temperate zones of Western Europe, New Zealand, North American, and eastern Asia (Schmid 1991; Kubitzki 2010). Horticulturists, gardeners, and plant nurseries depend on morphological differentiation as their prime tool as proposed in Maekawa (1940) and Schmid (1991).

Carl von Linné
by Alexander Roslin (1775)
Oil painting in the portrait collection at Gripsholm Castle

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