As part of a recent international collaboration to electronically disseminate information on Aloe L. (Asphodelaceae), a genus with over 500 accepted species, a comprehensive database of epithets used in the genus was compiled. Aloe is a truly flagship African, Madagascan and Arabian plant genus, but has been studied mostly by non-native botanists. A total of 915 names of species, subspecies and varieties, published over a period of 255 years was analysed to determine trends in the selection of epithets and rate of description of new taxa. The 876 epithets used in these names were classified into categories, and the naming of taxa in Aloe was analysed taking into account the prevalent historical and geographical context. Names derived from plant morphology are the most commonly used in the naming of aloes, but in recent years naming after people or geography are the preferred options. Interestingly, the decades preceding WWI (1901 to 1910) and WWII (1931 to 1940), and the past eight years (2001 to 2008), have been the ones during which the largest number of new taxa were described. A list of epithets with their dates of application, meaning and derivation is given in an appendix.
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Vol. 2010 • No. 28