surinenglish

Fascinating facts about plant names, part 1

Snapdragons.
Snapdragons. / PIXABAY
  • Gardening hints

  • All plants have binominal names which are usually Latin but can also be based on other languages

All plants have binominal names which are usually Latin but can also be based on other languages. The first part identifies the genus and the second (the specific name) the species. The genus is always written with a capital letter and the specific name in lower case. The International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi and plants (ICN) controls the way in which plants are named.

Plant family names almost always end in the Latin suffix 'aceae' meaning 'family'. However, genetic and morphology research is forever advancing, and it is not uncommon for plants to move from one family to another resulting in catalogues and dictionaries often being printed with out-of-date information. Plus there is the added factor of disagreements and general confusion over new classifications between botanists and scientists.

A good example of this is the common snapdragon, Schrophulariaceae; almost all genera have now been moved to other families. All Maples are no longer in Asteraceae (now Sapindaceae) and Milkweed (Asclepiadaceae) is now in Apocynaceae, the dogbanes. So when you are searching for a plant, whether in a catalogue or on the internet, keep in mind that it may be hiding under a synonym or with an old family name.