The Botanical Review

, 69:111 | Cite as

The PhyloCode is fatally flawed, and the “Linnaean” System can easily be fixed

  • Kevin C. Nixon
  • James M. Carpenter
  • Dennis W. Stevenson


Promoters of the PhyloCode have mounted an intensive and deceptive publicity campaign. At the centerpiece of this campaign have been slogans such as that the Linnaean System will “goof you up,” that the PhyloCode is the “greatest thing since sliced bread,” and that systematists are “afraid” to propose new names because of “downstream consequences.” Aside from such subscientific spin and sloganeering, proponents of the PhyloCode have offered nothing real to back up claims of greater stability for their new system. They have also misled many into believing that the PhyloCode is the only truly phylogenetic system. The confusion that has been fostered involves several discrete arguments, concerning: a new “method” of “designating” names, rank-free taxonomy, uninomial nomenclature, and issues of priority. Claims that the PhyloCode produces a more stable nomenclature are false, as shown with the example of “paleoherbs.” A rank-free system of naming requires an annotated reference tree for even the simplest exchanges of information. This would be confusing at best and would cripple our ability to teach, learn, and use taxonomic names in the field or in publications. We would be confronted by a mass of polynomial names, tied together only by a tree graphic, with no agreed name (except a uninomial, conveying no hierarchy) to use for any particular species. The separate issue of stability in reference to rules of priority and rank can be easily addressed within the current codes, by implementation of some simple changes, as we will propose in this article. Thus there is no need to “scrap” the current Linnaean codes for a poorly reasoned, logically inconsistent, and fatally flawed new code that will only bring chaos.

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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin C. Nixon
    • 1
  • James M. Carpenter
    • 2
  • Dennis W. Stevenson
    • 3
  1. 1.L. H. Bailey HortoriumCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.Division of Invertebrate ZoologyAmerican Museum of Natural HistoryNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.New York Botanical GardenBronxUSA

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