Banquet Piece, Pieter Claez

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Turkey-tangle fog-fruit, what's in a name?

Ran across a little flower today in Sunol park. Found it in the Sunol plant pictures, named lemon verbena. Really? That's something else in my garden that really smells like lemon. Let's try again on that name. Its Latin name is Phyla nodiflora var. nodiflora, that much we agree. And it's in the Verbena family, Verbenaceae.

Piggiwiggia Pyramidalis
Calflora has it listed as Lippia, Common Lippia, Garden Lippia, and my favorite, Turkey-tangle fogfruit. I think we are getting closer to a name here! CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names adds capeweed, daisy lawn, knotted-flower phyla, and frog fruit.

Generally, in our household, if we don't know the name of something we will give it a temporary name like "Fuzzy yellow-top" or "Knock-your-socks-off". But Turkey-tangle fogfruit? I'm intrigued. That sounds like something Edward Lear made up in his Nonsense Book or should have made up. Like these pictures here.

Plumbunnia Nutritosa

So seriously where does that name, Turkey-tangle fog-fruit, come from? I checked the usual sources:
Phyla nodiflora (Jepson, Calflora, USDA, ITISwiki)
Phyla (wiki)

From there, we get additional names: sawtooth fogfruit, frog fruit, turkey tangle. But no explanation.

When I get stuck on the origin of names or plants, I like to check L.H. Bailey's Cyclopedia of Horticulture (1900).

First thing to note is that there are many synonyms for Phlya nodiflora, including Lippia nodiflora, Lippia nodiflora var. reptens, Lippia incisa.

L.H. Bailey says that the name Lippia comes from August (Auguste?) Lippi, French traveller (naturalist?), 1678-1704. Or Augustus Lippi (1678-1701), naturalist and botanist, killed in Abbysinia.  And that "Under the name of L. repens, Franceschi introduced into S. California in 1900 an interesting perennial plant designed as a substitute for lawn grass in the South. It makes a remarkably dense mat, and bears numerous tiny flowers an inch or so above the ground. The fls. are home in a dense, bud-like head, covered with many tightly overlapping bracts. The fls. appear in rings, beginning at the base of the little head. Franceschi writes of this plant that it thrives in any soil no matter how poor, rapidly covers the ground, smothers weeds, stands trampling, requires much less water than grass, needs no mowing, can be easily taken out if desirable, and is used in southern Europe for tennis grounds."

A Botanical Dictionary: Or Elements of Systematic or Philosophical Botany (1802) says Lippia is named after Dr. Augustus Lippi, who travelled into Egypt and Abyssinia in search of natural curiosities.

Manypeeplia upsidownia
So a search for Franceschi and Lippia yielded this interesting article in the Pacific Press 29 November 1902:
Concerning the Fog Fruit, Lippia Nodiflora.
To the Editor:—The Pacific Rural Press of November 1 contained an article by Dr. Franceschi, entitled " The Introduction of Lippia." In justice to myself I desire to state briefly through your columns the facts of the case as I understand them. In the spring of 1899 the Arizona Experiment Station obtained from Dr. Franceschi a quantity of the plant called Lippia repens. This species from the very start appeared at home with our climatic conditions, and gave every promise of becoming the useful plant it has since proved to be. During the fall of 1901 the Experiment Station received plants of Lippia nodiflora from Mr. Charles B. Allaire, San Antonio, New Mexico, who obtained his plants in April, 1900, from the Department of Agriculture at Washington. Messrs. Lathrop and Fairchild of the Agricultural Department secured the original stock of these plants from Cairo, Egypt.
These two lots of lippia—the one called L. repens, the other L. nodiflora —have been grown side by side at the Experiment Station grounds, and after a year's careful observation I have failed to find any marked difference. Where the two forms have been grown together on gravelly mesa soil I cannot distinguish the one from the other. It would seem, then, that both lots of plants should be called Lippia repens, or else both Lippia nodiflora. The Index Kewensis, which is a standard work on nomenclature, gives Lippia repens Spreng. as a synonym for Lippia nodiflora Michx. The reason for this is apparent : L. nodiflora was published as a species in 1803, while Sprengel published on the same species some time later, calling it L. repens. Priority of publication is regarded as the fundamental principle of botanical nomenclature, and hence Lippia nodiflora Michx. prevails. Under these conditions I could not use the name Lippia repens Spreng. in the Timely Hint, issued last June, without being inconsistent with botanical nomenclature, as well as inaccurate.
I feel assured that the above statement will establish the integrity of the name Lippia nodiflora, and, this being the case, the occurrence of the species in the old world is admitted. The most eminent authorities, Engler and Prantl, in Die Naturlichen Pflanzenfamilien. say concerning the very general distribution of this species: "L. nodiflora is a common weed on banks and sandy shores in all the warmer parts of the earth." They also refer to a variety of repens from the Mediterranean basin " with more or less blunted bracts, which are slightly fringed on the margins." Should Dr. Franceschi's plant prove to be this form, it would then be known as Lippia nodiflora
I have examined specimens of the native L. nodiflora from the southeastern coast of the United States, the very region in which Michaux collected his type specimens of the species a century before, and I regard the plants of L. nodiflora grown on the station grounds as identical in every essential feature with those from the Florida coast. Thus, with the possible exception of California, the distribution of the species as given in the Timely Hint is maintained. I also have examined the plants sent from the University of California, and agree w'th Dr. Franceschi that they are quite distinct from his plant, and I will add also from the plants growing along the southeastern shores of the United States. In view of this latter fact, I need not enter into a discussion concerning the plant from California.
As to the honors of introduction, I desire to say that, in response to Dr. Franceschi's advertisements, the Arizona Station did buy—and pay for —a considerable number of plants. This transaction was supposed, however, to be a commercial one, we having no knowledge whatever of priority honors in the matter. There is certainly no statement in the publication which would lead any fair-minded person to think that the Experiment Station was claiming the honors of introduction, and hence I can see no occasion for the use of the expression, "sic vos non vobis." To quote from the Timely Hint: "This Station will endeavor to furnish plants of Lippia nodiflora in limited quantities to all who may apply."
The "puzzling appellative," fog fruit, for which Dr. Franceschi expresses disrespect, has been applied to this and allied species for more than half a century by such botanists as Drs. Wood and Gray, and, later, Britton and Brown—a fact which amply justifies the use of the term in this connection. The occurrence of typographical errors in the use of the term is no good argument against its continuance.
 J. J. Thornber, Botanist, Experiment Station, University of Arizona. Tucson, Nov. 14.

And now, the Pacific Rural Press 1 November 1902 article that sparked this response:
The Introduction of Lippia.
To the Editor: —I happen to notice only now that in two numbers of the Pacific Rural Press (September 6 and October 11) mention is made of "lippia," in the first number reproducing a bulletin of the University of Arizona Agricultural Experiment Station, and in the second stating that it comes highly recommended from Arizona. This is a flagrant case of the old complaint, " sic Vos non Vobis," this plant having been received in Arizona from California, where it was introduced by myseif a few years ago, through plants which I obtained from the botanic garden in Rome, Italy. There, and generally in southern Europe, where it is a native, and these last twenty-five or thirty years has been much spread in gardens, it is known as "Lippia Repens." The botanist of the University of Arizona refers it to "Lippia Nodiflora," and further goes on stating that this plant is a native of four out of the five continents, and that it is indigenous also to California and Texas. The specimens of Lippia Nodiflora which were sent to me from the department of botany of the University of California are quite distinct from my plant, as you can easily ascertain yourself; but this question of nomenclature has no special interest for the readers of your paper. What I desire to state, because it is true, is the Lippia Repens, which has already made its proofs as a valuable introduction, was first imported by myself to California at the end of 1897, and from Santa Barbara it has been distributed all over our State, Arizona and other States, as well as into Mexico and Australia. There is no reason for altering its name, which has a good standing, and much less to apply to it the puzzling appellative of "fog plant," while the fact is that Lippia Repens does not bear a fruit, and, as to fog, it has proved well enough that it can do without it. — Dr. F. Franceschi, Santa Barbara.
We are glad to have this statement. The botanists will have to clear up the tangle in nomenclature. It is evidently a true "repens" or creeping species which is needed to do what is expected of this plant.
So it sounds like there is confusion as to which plant is which. And now I even wonder if this is really a California native or just a very successful invasive.

The Arizona Agricultural Station Bulletin no. 45 has a write up on Lippia nodiflora in 1902. Well, this must be what sparked Dr. Franceschi's letter!

So who is this Franceschi and why does he say "sic Vos non Vobis"? As near as I can tell from the internet, this is something you might say to others who are profiting from something that you did. Does he think that the Arizona Experiment Station people are saying that they have introduced Lippia?

Interesting man, Francheschi. I happened to run across an old Pacific Horticulture, "The Life of Dr Francesco Franceschi and his Park", July/August/September 2002. I couldn't find it online. Here are some other articles:

There are many articles on this amazing "new" lawn plant. Just search for "lippia" in the California Digital Newspaper Collection. This ad turned up in the 20 March 1909 issue of the Pacific Rural Press.

You can buy it from Annie's Annuals.


  • Britton and Brown, 1898
  • Gray, 1872, Fog-Fruit
  • Los Angeles Herald, September 28, 1902.  "The plant was first introduced in San Diego about two years ago by Miss Kate O. Sessions, the well-known and successful florist of that city. Miss Sessions is most enthusiastic over the remarkable results already achieved. At Coronado Beach especially does this lippia thrive so well that it has taken the place of grass all about the beautiful grounds of the Coronado hotel, the golf house, Japanese tea garden, along the borders of the sidewalks, and in fact on every spot that can be beautified by covering the brown earth with a carpet of green. "

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