PhytoKeys 23: 19–24, doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.23.4827
The typification of Cordia flavescens Aubl., the transfer of Firensia Scop. from Cordia L. (Cordiaceae, Boraginales) to the synonymy of Ocotea Aubl. (Lauraceae), and the identity of the species of Firensia
Christian Feuillet 1
1 Department of Botany, MRC–166, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, P.O. Box 37012, Washington, DC 20013-7012, USA

Corresponding author: Christian Feuillet (

Academic editor: James Miller

received 4 February 2013 | accepted 8 May 2013 | Published 17 May 2013

(C) 2013 Christian Feuillet. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0 (CC-BY), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

For reference, use of the paginated PDF or printed version of this article is recommended.


Firensia Scop. was based on Cordia flavescens Aubl., a species described and illustrated from a mixed collection that Scopoli never transferred to Firensia. The genus included three additional species formally named by Rafinesque. Currently the four species are placed in three different families and none retained the epithet accepted by Scopoli or given by Rafinesque for reason of priority. A lectotype is designated for Cordia flavescens that places Firensia in the synonymy of Ocotea (Lauraceae).


Aublet, Boraginales, Combretaceae, Cordia, Lauraceae, French Guiana, Rafinesque, typification


In the preparation of the treatment of the Boraginaceae for the Flora of the Guianas, I got intrigued by the history of Firensia Scop. When Scopoli (1777: 157) described Firensia, he included only Cordia flavescens Aubl. that is therefore the type of the genus. Contrary to what is stated by Jackson (Index Kewensis 1893, as reflected in IPNI (; accessed 23.01.2013), in that work Cordia flavescens was not transferred to Firensia. Necker (1790, 1: 276) accepted Firensia as one of his “species naturalis” in a work where the nomenclature was uninominal and that is rejected as a source of names by the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (McNeill et al. 2006, App. VI: 483). Three species were placed in Firensia by Rafinesque (1838: 40), two of them illegitimate renaming. Other authors ignored Firensia or placed it in the synonymy of Cordia (ex.: Candolle 1845: 471 [as “Firenzia”]). Then Kuntze (1891, 2: 977) placed them in Lithocardium “L. 1735”. As this is a pre-1753 name, he created Lithocardium Kuntze with Cordia L. as a synonym. It is an illegitimate renaming of Cordia.


To solve the question of the generic and familial placement of Firensia, I studied the literature and type specimens. I looked also at printed photographs found in the cited herbarium collections, and examined scanned of specimens or photos of specimens posted online, available directly through the herbarium site, or through the sites of JSTOR or Europeana. Example: “photos F, MO!, US!; scan!”. The Internet address to the scans is given in a note below the species.

A few typifications had to be made. When the type collection was known, but not the holotype, the text says: “Type:... (lectotype... ; isotypes...)”. When the original description was associated with several collections of equal status or syntypes, a type collection and a lectotype were selected and the text says: “Lectotype...: ... (hololectotype...; isolectotypes...)”. In both cases the information on the date of lectotypification is given next to the word lectotype.

Taxonomic treatment
Typification of Cordia flavescens and familial placement of Firensia in the Lauraceae

The name Cordia flavescens Aubl. was described and illustrated based on a mixture of fruiting branches of Ocotea commutata Nees (LAURACEAE) and flowers belonging in Cordia. Specimens by Aublet at BM and S represent only the Ocotea element (Johnston 1935: 44). This offers an opportunity to give a clear identity to the name by designating as the lectotype a specimen lacking the Cordia element.

Cordia flavescens Aubl. is the only species included in Firensia by Scopoli (1777: 157) and is therefore the type species of Firensia Scop. Firensia falls in the synonymy of Ocotea Aubl. 1775 and belongs in the Lauraceae.

Nomenclature stability is satisfied: Firensia Scop. (1777) does not have priority over Ocotea Aubl. (1775), and the epithet flavescens cannot be transferred to Ocotea as the name Ocotea flavescens Rusby (1920) applies to a different species from Colombia. Aublet’s name becomes a synonym of Ocotea commutata (Nees) Mez.

Ocotea Aubl., Hist. Pl. Guiane 2: 780; 4: t. 310. 1775.

Type: Ocotea guianensis Aubl.

Firensia Scop., Intr. Hist. Nat. 157. 1777.

Type: Cordia flavescens Aubl.

Identity of the type species and those once placed in Firensia

The species once placed in Firensia have been named or identified as species of Cordia L., one by Linnaeus (1757: 14) and three by Aublet (1775: 219, 224, 226; t. 86, 88, 89). None of the epithets used in Firensia could be kept for reason of priority. The type species, Cordia flavescens, and the three species of Firensia currently belong in three different genera and families.

1. Cordia flavescens Aubl., Lauraceae
Ocotea commutata (Nees) Mez, Jahrb. Königl. Bot. Gart. Berlin 5: 327. 1889.
Type: Based on Oreodaphne commutata Nees
Cordia flavescens Aubl., Hist. Pl. Guiane 1: 226; 3: t. 89. 1775; not Ocotea flavescens Rusby 1920.
Type: French Guiana. J.B. Aublet s.n. [specimens without the Cordia flowers](lectotype here designated BM [BM-000993950; scan!]; isotypes LINN [SM 374.6], S [04-2350; scan!])
Cordia sarmentosa Lam., Tab. Encycl. Méthod. 1: 422. 1791; illegitimate renaming.
Type: Based on Cordia flavescens Aubl.
Oreodaphne commutata Nees, Syst. Laur. 428. 1836.
Type: French Guiana. J. Martin s.n. (holotype B “ex P” [photos neg. F-3643, MO!, US!; scan!]; isotypes B [2 sheets, scans!], K, P! [2 sheets, scans!] and as “Martin 20” P! [scan!]
Lithocardium flavescens (Aubl.) Kuntze, Revis. Gen. Pl. 2: 977. 1891.
Type: Based on Cordia flavescens Aubl.
Gerascanthus flavescens (Aubl.) Borhidi, Acta Bot. Hung. 34(3–4): 400. 1988.
Type: Based on Cordia flavescens Aubl.
2. Firensia fusca Raf., Cordiaceae
Cordia collococca L., Sp. Pl. ed. 2, 1: 274. 1762.
Lectotype (designated by Miller 1988, 1999): Jamaica. P. Browne s.n. (hololectotype LINN, Savage Catalog number 253.8[scan!])
Firensia fusca Raf., Sylva Tellur. 40. 1838; illegitimate renaming.
Type: Based on Cordia collococca L.
Lithocardium collococca (L.) Kuntze, Revis. Gen. Pl. 2: 438. 1891.
Type: Based on Cordia collococca L.
Gerascanthus collococcus (L.) Borhidi, Acta Bot. Hung. 34(3–4): 399. 1988.
Type: Based on Cordia collococca L.

The hololectotype of Cordia collococca can be seen at [herb. LINN scan!;; accessed 22.01.2013].

For other synonyms, see Feuillet (2012: 160).

3. Firensia hirsuta (Willd.) Raf., Cordiaceae
Cordia nodosa Lam., Tab. Encycl. 1: 422. 1792.
Type: Aublet (1775) Hist. Pl. Guiane 3: pl. 86.
Cordia collococca sensu J.B. Aublet, Hist. Pl. Guiane 1: 219; & 3: pl. 86. 1775; non L. 1757. (= Cordia nodosa Lam.)
Cordia hirsuta Willd., Sp. Pl., ed. 5 [as “4”] 1(2): 1076. 1798.
Type: Based on Cordia nodosa Lam.
Firensia hirsuta (Willd.) Raf., Sylva Tellur. 40. 1838.
Type: Based on Cordia nodosa Lam.
Lithocardium nodosum (Lam.) Kuntze, Rev. Gen. 2: 977. 1891.
Type: Based on Cordia nodosa Lam.

Sometimes the collection from French Guiana—J.B. Aublet s.n. (BM [scan!], LINN SM-374.5 [microfiche!], P-Rousseau 5: 181! [acquired by P only in 1953])—is cited as the type of Cordia nodosa and Cordia hirsuta. In fact it is unlikely that Lamarck (1792, 1, 2(1): 422) or Willdenow (1798, 1(2): 1076) saw a specimen as they only cited Aublet plate 86.

Aublet s.n. can be seen at

Cordia hirsuta Fresen. 1857 is different from Cordia hirsuta Willd. 1798.

For other synonyms, see Johnston (1935: 13–14).

4. Firensia lutea Raf., Combretaceae
Buchenavia tetraphylla (Aubl.) R.A. Howard, J. Arnold Arbor. 64(2): 266. 1983.
Type: Based on Cordia tetraphylla Aubl.
Cordia tetraphylla Aubl., Hist. Pl. Guiane 1: 224; 3: t. 88. 1775.
Lectotype (designated by Howard 1983: 266): Plate, Aubl., Hist. Pl. Guiane 1: pl. 88, excl. f. 1-3 (1775).
Firensia lutea Raf., Sylva Tellur. 40. 1838; illegitimate renaming.
Type: Based on Cordia tetraphylla Aubl.
Lithocardium tetraphyllum (Aubl.) Kuntze, Rev. Gen. 2: 977. 1891.
Type: Based on Cordia tetraphylla Aubl.
Gerascanthus tetraphyllus (Aubl.) Borhidi, Acta Bot. Hung. 34(3–4): 402. 1988.
Type: Based on Cordia tetraphylla Aubl.

For other synonyms, see Acevedo and Strong (2012: 229).

Invalid names

Ocotea commutata Nees ex Meisn., Prodr. (DC.) 15(1): 120. 1864, invalid: pro syn. Oreodaphne commutata Nees (= Ocotea commutata (Nees) Mez 1889).

Cordia echitioides Lam. ex D. Dietr., Syn. Pl. 1: 612. 1839; invalid: pro syn. Cordia flavescens Aubl. (= Ocotea commutata (Nees) Mez).


I want to thank Larry Kelly for reviewing the manuscript and Jim Miller for being the editor. My gratitude to the editorial team who indulge my poor handling of the interaction with the PhytoKeys website. I am indebted to the curators of the herbaria cited who made easy to get loans, or work in the collection in their care, or provided scans of types.

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