What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name? What difference does it make if we have the right names on our plants? Does anyone really care? Well, if we did not have the right name on a plant you would be very disappointed when your order came and it was not what you had expected.  But common names change for the same plant depending on where you live. The “Rubber Plant” in California may not be the same as the “Rubber Plant” in New York, so we list our plants by scientific names. If you have a question about a name please let me know and I will check it out with our authority. In fact, when we are not sure what the accurate name of the plant is, we put a descriptive “tag” on it and add more details in the plant description. Although pictures can be misleading sometimes, our pictures are taken in the greenhouse of the exact same, genetic material of what we will be sending you. There are a very few exceptions of plants that are grown from seed and that will be noted in the plant description.

We do a lot of research to make sure we have the correct botanical or scientific names for our plants. We use botanical names in our catalog. This system was started in the 18th century by the famous Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus and is called binomial nomenclature. These botanical names consist of two words which are usually latinized. Latin is considered the universal language of science. These names consist of the Genus, which is the group name and is capitalized, and the species, which usually describes the plant and begins with a lowercase letter.  For example, Begonia semperflorens is the scientific name for the plant with the common name “Wax Begonia,” or in some places it is called the “Bedding Begonia.” Begonia is the genus and semperflorens is the species. Semperflorens means ever flowering. This describes this begonia which is always flowering, as long as it gets enough light.

But alas botanical names change too. Sometimes it is discovered that a plant was also named by a botanist at an earlier time. So the rules of international nomenclature say that the first given name is the valid name. Also, botanists are always studying our plants with the newest technology (electron microscopes and DNA sequencing) and reorganizing them, so our botanical nomenclature does change.

We use The Plant List, at theplantlist.org, as our authority. This web site is associated with the Missouri Botanical Garden in St Louis and The Royal Botanical Garden at Kew in London.

Again, if you have a question about a name, please send me an email at don@stevesleaves.com.

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