Hamamelidaceae Liquidambar styraciflua.
|Source: Sanchezn - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3057384|
This was my favorite scientific name in dendrology class back in college. We had to memorize about 150 tree names, and a few of them still rattle around in my brain occasionally. But Hamamelidaceae Liquidambar styraciflua pops instantly into my mind every time I pass a sweetgum tree. And they're almost everywhere east of the Mississippi, which means that wonderful name rings in my head all the time.
|A Sweetgum in autumn. Source: Ontologicalpuppy - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36757412|
But as I checked into The Plant List to confirm the Accepted Name (yes, it is still Liquidambar styraciflua L.) I received a shock. The Plant List had the Family listed as Altingiaceae! What the heck is Altingiaceae? I quickly clicked over to the Catalogue of Life and confirmed that, indeed, genus Liquidambar has been torn from the bosom of the witch-hazel family Hamamelidaceae, and transplanted into the unknown-to-me family of Altingiaceae.
Altingiaceae Liquidambar styraciflua?! Just doesn't have the same ring, the same rhythm. What were they thinking?
Well, according to Wikipedia...
"The name "Altingiaceae" has a long and complex taxonomic history. Some attribute the name to John Lindley, who published it in 1846. Others say that the authority for the name is Paul F. Horaninov, who described the group in 1841. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the family Altingiaceae was not generally accepted. Most authors placed these genera in Hamamelidaceae and this treatment has been followed in some recent works as well. In the twenty-first century, however, molecular phylogenetic studies have shown that including Altingiaceae in Hamamelidaceae makes Hamamelidaceae paraphyletic. The Angiosperm Phylogeny Group recognizes four families in the lineage including Altingiaceae. Cercidiphyllaceae and Daphniphyllaceae are sister. This clade is sister to Hamamelidaceae and these three families are sister to Altingiaceae. The clade is sister to Paeoniaceae."
So much the worse for modern-day dendrology students, who will never experience the pleasure of committing Hamamelidaceae Liquidambar styraciflua to memory.
|A nice non-typical specimen of L. styraciflua. Source: Penn State Xylarium.|