The Naming Error of the Lespedeza Genus

An Error in Names

November 20, 1933  
On this day, the Knoxville Journal shared a story called "Department Botanists Agree Too Late to Change - Lespedeza was named in Error."
Lespedeza (pronounced "Les-pah-dee-zah") is a genus of around 40 species of flowering plants in the pea family, commonly known as bush clovers.
The article pointed out that the mistaken identity...
"dates back to 1803 when [the] French botanist, Michaux, ...bestowed the name to honor the governor of Florida [named] Lespedez who allowed [the botanist André] Michaux to explore Florida as part of his botanizing efforts for France.
[But,a botanist by the name of] P. L. Ricker, of the United States Department of Agriculture, ... [couldn't find] a governor [named Lespedez] in Florida State history.
By checking [the] old histories, records revealed that the governor in 1788 was actually named Cespedes, making it clear that the name as given by Michaux was either an error or a misprint. Botanists of the department agree that it would be a mistake to try to correct the mistake now if for no other reason [than] it would lead to confusion with a family of tropical trees, Cespedesia named in honor of an early professor of botany also named Cespedes."

So there you go. We're stuck with Lespedeza.

This post was featured on
The Daily Gardener podcast:

helping gardeners find their roots,
one story at a time

Leave a Comment