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Veldtalk: How The Ozzies Stole Our Name!
From the article by Helen Duigan on 6 Nov 2014
Those Ozzies stole our name!
Our Acacias are no longer Acacias! They are now called either Vachellia or Senegalia. So our beloved Sweet thorn/Soetdoring is no longer Acacia Karroo but is burdened with Vachellia karroo. All because of the sneaky Australians.
The name “Acacia” is derived from the Greek “akakia” - “thorny Egyptian tree” from the word “ake” - “point, thorn”. The first acacia was named in 1753 as Acacia scorpioides (stings like a scorpion?) and later changed to Acacia nilotica: Scented thorn/ Lekkerruikpeul.
The normal rule in taxonomy is that the earliest published name has precedence. But, when it was discovered through modern scientific tests, including DNA testing, that all acacias were not in fact the same, the Australians most sneakily lobbied to have the name “Acacia” for their trees (which do NOT have thorns). They have about 1 000 species of indigenous acacias which are part of a huge agro-forestry and horticultural industry.
We South Africans find it very hard to swallow the change in name of our acacias which are such a familiar part of our landscape.
The other familiar African tree which name was changed a few years ago was the Rhus. Most of the Rhus species growing in southern Africa have been placed in Searsia (named after Paul B Sears (1891 – 1990) who was head of the Yale School of Botany). So we now have the Searsia lancea (Karee) and the Searsia pyroides (Common currant/Gewone taaibos).