A Year in Wildflowers
Southern Indiana Wildflowers
Most people know plants by their common names. It is quite natural that everyone within a locality or region uses these common names. The problem with common names is that they can change from region to region. An example is Belamcanda chinensis. In some areas as people, call it the Leopard Flower, in others as Blackberry Lily. Both are descriptive names, one about the flower, the other referring to the blackberry like seed cluster. However, the name might confuse a scientist or gardener looking for that specific plant by the name, and may not be able to find the right plant for his garden.
Scientific or Botanical Plant Names
In light of this problem, botanists have developed a system of scientific or botanical names. These scientific names are bestowed an International Botanical Congress which meets periodically to devise a new International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN). The International Association for Plant Taxonomy supplies the support for the meetings of this Congress. Scientists use the names bestowed by this Congress are accepted all over the world. The names ensure uniformity for the plant in question.
Scientific, or botanical, names for plants might seem intimidating to the average gardener. Botanic names comprise Latin, or Latinized versions of words and are used to classify plants in a logical order that tells us where the plant belongs in the vast Plant Kingdom. Common names of plants may change from locality to locality but the botanical name remains the same for plants all over the world. This eliminates confusion if you know the botanical name for the plant you are looking for.
Carl Linnaeus, who lived between 1707 and 1778, devised the system of botanical names. During his lifetime explorers discovered, many new plant species in the Americas and all over the world. He published the first edition of his Systema Naturae in 1735. It is worth noting that Linnaeus devised a scientific system for naming both plants and animals, but his primary love was of plants and gardening.
A gardener need not learn Latin to utilize the knowledge contained within the botanical name of a plant. But it does help the gardener to know the basics of the scientific naming system that Linnaeus devised. Plants are classified according to criteria laid down by this system. The basic system is this – Plant Kingdom/phylum/class/family/genus/species. There are also subkingdoms, subphylums, subfamilies and the like. The only portion of the botanical name that should concern most gardeners is the genus/species portion of the botanical name. This is the labels on the plants in the garden center may include it. Most of the plants in this guide will have the genus species name, as well as the family to which it belongs. If the plant is a hybrid or variety, that designation will follow the species name.
Thus a popular garden perennial, the New England Aster will be called Aster novae-angliae, Family Compositae or Daisy. Note that the genus name is always capitalized; the species name is lower case. An “X” will designate a hybrid after the species name. A specific variety will have is name preceded by the letters “var” after the species name. A serious gardener should arm themselves with a good plant name dictionary or even a copy of Hortus Third because the authors use botanical names of the various plants in these guides.
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