Mesembryanthemum splendens, in Afrikaans the donkievygie (donkey mesemb), should maybe officially be called Phyllobolus splendens, the situation apparently unresolved as yet.
Resolving naming issues in Botany doesn’t last, however. Botanical names evolve in a manner not fully Darwinian. Punctuated by discrete events of committee resolutions and academic publications, the direction of development deviates from random, vaguely following the drift trends of available information to agreed knowledge.
The Leviathan constituted by collective human knowledge grows semi-predictable limbs from the meristems of curiosity. It savours new insights, but retains politically correct residuals through committee filters managed by the science bureaucracy.
One of the longer lists of synonyms one might chance to see for a scientific plant name, i.e. previously used names now discarded by the botanists that know, is given for this plant in www.redlist.sanbi.org.
And then the people who don’t know science went along and named the poor plant for the donkey! Could the leaf pairs resemble ears? Identity crises don’t affect plant well-being, fortunately. Give them care in the garden, don’t harm them in nature and they’ll be right as rain… even during drought, if they’re succulents as is this one.
The donkievygie is not endangered under any alias in its habitat early in the twenty first century, growing stable populations from Namaqualand to the Little Karoo (Vlok and Schutte-Vlok, 2010; www.redlist.sanbi.org).