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Vernacular Names

— Botanists are often blamed for not giving one common name, and one name only, to one particular species of Eucalyptus, and when it is suggested that there are difficulties in the way, such a suggestion is attributed to perverseness. I am afraid the millenium will have arrived before the reform hinted at can be carried out. The present species is a good one for illustrating one of the reasons why the "one species one common name" dictum cannot be realised. More than one other species is known as Grey Gum, for


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example, Eucalyptus propinqua and Eucalyptus tereticornis. Then why another Grey Gum? Suppose we call Eucalyptus tereticornis Red Gum (a name by which it is frequently known) instead of Grey Gum; then there will be more or less confusion between it and its brother, Eucalyptus rostrata, the Red Gum par excellence. Or, to come back to the subject of our present Grey Gum, suppose we suppress Grey Gum, having assigned that designation to Eucalyptus propinqua, then there remains the next best and most used name for it, which is Leather-jacket. But consider the number of other trees which have a vested interest in the name of Leather-jacket, which have indeed more claim to the name, because of greater appropriateness and use by a larger number of people, and we at once see that if we appropriate the name for Eucalyptus punctata we shall be as far of our "one species one name" as ever. The fact of the matter is, that so long as people are so obstinate as to please themselves in the matter of names, and so long as the same object presented to different individuals is seen by them in different aspects, so long will this name difficulty continue. The Grey Gum people will not give up their name simply to please the Red Gum people, and so on. The former say: "Our name is the more suitable; we look at the bark,-see how grey it is." The latter say But look how red the timber is."It is of no use to blow up the botanist. He does not give the local names. The people at large do that, and who can control them ? The chief reason why we give "botanical names" is in order to obtain a definiteness not obtained by vernaculars. Some of our species have at least eight or ten common names.

The term Grey Gum is applied to punctata because of the dull grey appearance of the bark. The bark has a roughish appearance, in contradistinction to a smooth and even shiny one, possessed by so many of our gums. It has smooth, white patches in places, caused by the outer layer of bark falling off. These white patches in their turn become grey, and the process of exfoliation of the bark is repeated until probably the whole of the bark on the trunk is shed at one time or another. Although rather difficult to properly describe, the bark of the Grey Gum is so characteristic that, when once pointed out, it could not be confused with the bark of any other hardwood tree.

It is called "Black Box" at Capertee, owing to the darkness of the bark, and Mr. Forester Sim, of the same place, says it is also called "Slaty Gum." The smooth bark is sometimes of a yellow ochre or pale brown colour, hence it might then be appropriately called "Brown-barked Gum."

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