How I Found C.S. Gardner

Carolus Linnaeus by Alexander Roslin. 1775. (under Public Domain)On May 1, 1753, "Species Plantarum" by Carolus Linnaeus was published and thus began the use of the binomial nomenclature, the formal system of naming the species of living things.  In this system,  each species name has two parts:  the genus name and the species name.

Fast forward to the present.  The scientific naming of plants is now governed by a body of laws or rules known as the International Code of Botanical nomencalture (ICBN).  Often, the author is cited as well.  The author is the person who first publishes the name of a plant while fulfilling all the formal requirements specified by the ICBN.

For example:

Tillandsia chiapensis Gardner

This indicates that the Tillandsia chiapensis was described by Gardner.

The plant I am featuring in this post is the Tillandsia chiapensis.  While researching on the internet, I have come across it as either:

  1. Tillandsia chiapensis Gardner
  2. Tillandisa chiapensis cs Gardner or
  3. Tillandsia chiapensis C.S. Gardner. 

For a non-science major, who never had to take a single botany course in college, I was confused by the difference in names.  Weren't Linnaeus and the ICBN supposed to have cleared this up?  Inquiring minds want to know.

From #1, I knew that someone named Gardner had first described the plant.  I searched for "botanist Gardner" and came up with quite a few botanists surnamed Gardner.  Funny that Gardner is almost spelled the same as gardener.

I changed my search and came across #2.  Don't laugh but I must admit to wondering what "cs" stood for.

Thankfully, I came across #3 which told me that a certain C.S. Gardner first described the plant.  By this time, I was curious about C.S. Gardner and wanted to know more about the person.  I only came across authored research but nothing more.  I found a paper on tomatoes by a C.S. Gardner from the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.  I went through the faculty and found a Cassell Gardner but he seems to be the wrong one.  I found another paper related to Texas A&M and tried looking for a Prof. Gardner but again came up empty-handed. 

I decided to just forget about my search and start writing this post instead since I'd procrastinated long enough.  While reading about the ICBN though, I came across the International Plant Names Index (IPNI) and found out that C.S. Gardner stood for Cecelia Sue Gardner.  Although, I belatedly found out that she is indexed as Cecelia Sue Gardner in my favorite book, "Tillandsia".  This is what happens when one doesn't read a book cover to cover.

Finding her was easy after that.  Her online presence is as Cecelia Sue Sill, Ph.D. but earlier Tillandsia publications were as C.S. Gardner.  She did go to Texas A&M University for her Doctorate degree in Botany where her Dissertation was "A Systematic Study of Tillandsia, Subgenus Tillandsia" (of course!).

This is the holotype of the Tillandsia chiapensis submitted by Dr. Sill to the Marie Selby Gardens and published in Selbyana 2(4): 338. 1978.

Posted with permission. Courtesy, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.

She describes her specimen as:

"saxicolous on canyon walls, 600 meters elevation.  Forming large clumps.  Inflorescence suberect, becoming decumbent after flowering.

17 km. west of Ocozocoautla, Chiapas, Mex.

Sue Gardner 211                                                                         3 Aug. 1977"

Endemic to and named for the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico, the Tillandsia chiapensis C.S. Gardner has a grey-green foliage.  It is covered by trichomes, even its inflorescence, giving it a frosted appearance.


Its inflorescence is light pink and the flower is the same as most Tillandsias.....purple. The leaves even have a tinge of purple. It is one of my favorite Tillandsias.

It doesn't like to be watered often and it loves basking under full sun. It is a prolific pupper. I have a Tillandsia chiapensis that has produced seven pups and more are coming.  Family planning is not in its vocabulary.

Tillandsia chiapensis C.S. Gardner has made me realized that scientific naming of plants is not a simple matter.  Law school would have been more interesting if there was a subject that dealt with plants like The Law on Botanical Names and its Order of Preference.  I would have probably topped the class.





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