Over the years, I’ve made a few photos of Blue Dicks here and there. They got their funny common name from their – now former! – scientific name Dichelostemma capitatum – one can imagine a person trying to remember it: “Here are those blue Dic… Dic… whatever, dicks!”. They’re also known as Wild Hyacinth (the first name I learned actually), Purplehead and Brodiaea (a misnomer).
I recently went to review my photos, when the new scientific name “Dipterostemon capitatus” has been proposed for them. When that happens, many naturalists are often a bit miffed. As soon as one remembers one of those complicated scientific names, “they” change it! ;-)
It’s not exactly great fun as a website owner either: I try to give my files accurate and search-engine friendly names, and add common and scientific names to the captions of the photos that I have online – and then the name changes. But that is the nature of scientific names. Common names are often based on color, similarities to other plants (but only on a surface level), or certain features, but they tell us little about a plant’s family or relationships.
Scientific names on the other hand are more than just labels. Here’s a wonderful, if perhaps a bit overloaded (look at conclusion #3), PDF by Robert E. Preston that explains what’s in a scientific name, and that makes the case why Blue Dicks should really be Blue Dips instead: Not Another Damn Name Change!
With the proposed name change, I dove into the online archive of photos here on my website to supplement the captions and descriptions, and compiled the existing photos into a little gallery. Interesting to see how my photographic eye, style and vision has changed over time.