The discovery that sparked the name change
The science of Taxonomy requires all species of one plant genus to be more closely related to each other than species of any other genus. However, DNA research revealed this was not the case for several species within Plectranthus,
including all 62 species native to Australia.
Using this new understanding of Plectranthus
and its relatives, a choice had to be made following botanical nomenclature guidelines. Instead of eliminating two other existing genera and transferring the species to create a bigger Plectranthus
genus, the Plectranthus
research team decided to recognise two additional genera (Coleus
) to reduce the size of Plectranthus
This change in names represents our corrected understanding of evolutionary history and a more informative recognition of biodiversity for these organisms. The recently published paper
I co-authored describes this transfer of some Plectranthus
species to the newly named genus Equilabium
and some to the resurrected genus Coleus
. This transfer also aligns scientific and common names as the old scientific name Coleus
was still being used in many areas despite not being recognised by science.
One of the 62 species which has been recently reclassified, Coleus venustus, growing on Mount Kutini in the Cape York Peninsula.