LETTERS TO THE EDITORS
To Pine or Not?
To the Editors:
I enjoyed the article, "Ancient Wollemi Pines Resurgent"
by Stephen McLoughlin and Vivi Vajda (November-December 2005), on
the recently discovered Cretaceous period gymnosperm tree, except
for mounting displeasure on each of the dozens of occasions it is
referred to as a pine. Calling it such is not a slight misnomer. It
would have been nice if the authors had eschewed "the
p-word" and christened the species with its own proper common
name—wollemi for instance, or Noble's wollemi, to distinguish
it from other species in the genus, should they be discovered, in
the flesh or as fossils.
University of British Columbia
Dr. McLoughlin responds:
We take Dr. Worral's point about the "Wollemi Pine" not
being a true pine, and we feel that we emphasized this fact in our article.
However, this common name has already become deeply entrenched in
the literature and in horticultural circles, and we are unlikely to
change this situation.
The established common name of the Wollemi pine actually follows a
long tradition in Australia of using the vernacular term
"pine" with almost all native conifers. Hence, we have
Huon pines (Lagarostrobus), hoop pines
(Araucaria), King Billy pines (Athrotaxus),
celery-top pines (Phyllocladus), plum pines
(Podocarpus) and cypress pines (Callitris)
belonging to a range of conifer families.
This may be vexatious to the pure taxonomist, but its something that
most botanists have little trouble with. Perhaps it is similar to
the tradition of certain North American members of the genera
Torreya, Juniperus, Calocedrus and Thuja all
being called "cedars" in vernacular usage.