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  3. Unravelling the Mysteries of Multiple Plant Names

Unravelling the Mysteries of Multiple Plant Names

When you enter the gardening world, you’re met with various vibrant plants with unique beauty and charm. However, one of the first lessons you’ll likely learn as a beginner gardener is that plants often carry multiple names. So let’s unravel the mystery behind one of the most important aspects of plant identification: botanical and Latin names.

Name: Yarrow. Botanical/Latin Name: Achillea millefolium

The Need for Precision

Have you ever tried discussing plants with fellow enthusiasts or seeking advice from gardening experts? If you have, you might have encountered the challenges of common names. A plant’s common name can vary based on language, region, and culture. What you call “butterfly bush” might be “summer lilac” for someone else. This can easily lead to confusion and misunderstandings. That’s where botanical and Latin names come in.

The Two-Part Harmony

Scientific, botanical or Latin names are universally recognised languages that transcend borders and dialects. They consist of two parts: the genus name and the species name.

Think of it like a first and last name for plants. The genus name is capitalised, and the species name is in lowercase. For example, the scientific name for the common sunflower is “Helianthus annuus.” “Helianthus” is the genus name, and “annuus” is the species name.

Why Bother with Latin?

You might wonder why scientists decided to adopt Latin for this purpose. The choice of Latin has historical significance. In times when scientific communication was primarily conducted in Latin, this language offered a neutral ground for researchers worldwide to communicate without language barriers or cultural biases.

The Language of Precision

Botanical names provide a level of precision and clarity that common names can’t match. When you learn a plant’s botanical name, you gain access to a wealth of information about its characteristics, habitat, and even its evolutionary relatives. This knowledge is crucial for successful gardening, plant identification, and scientific research.

Staying Steady Amid Change

While common names can change over time and vary between regions, the beauty of botanical names is their stability. Even if a plant’s classification is updated due to new scientific discoveries, its botanical name remains constant. This ensures you’re always on the same page when discussing plants.

Understanding Latin Names

A
Latin NameEnglish NameArea
albaWhiteColour
alpinusAlpineOrigins/Habitat
amurAmur River – AsiaOrigins/Habitat
anthosFlowerCommon Root Words
aterBlackColour
aureaGoldenColour
azurBlueColour
B
Latin NameEnglish NameArea
breviShortCommon Root Words
C
Latin NameEnglish NameArea
canadensisCanadaOrigins/Habitat
chinensis ChinaOrigins/Habitat
chrysusYellowColour
coccineusScarletColour
contortaTwistedForm/Habit
E
Latin NameEnglish NameArea
erythroRedColour
F
Latin NameEnglish NameArea
ferrugineusRustyColour
filiThreadlikeCommon Root Words
floraFlowerCommon Root Words
foliusFoliageCommon Root Words
G
Latin NameEnglish NameArea
globosaRoundedForm or Habit
gracilisGracefulForm or Habit
grandiLargeCommon Root Words
H
Latin NameEnglish NameArea
haemaBlood redColour
heteroDiverseCommon Root Words
J
Latin NameEnglish NameArea
japonicaJapanOrigins / Habitat
L
Latin NameEnglish NameArea
lacteusMilkyColour
laevisSmoothCommon Root Words
leptoSlenderCommon Root Words
leucWhiteColour
lividusBlue-greyColour
luridusPale yellowColour
luteusYellowColour
M
Latin NameEnglish NameArea
macroLargeCommon Root Words
maculataSpottedForm or Habit
magnusLargeForm or Habit
maritimaSeasideOrigins / Habitat
megaBigCommon Root Words
microSmallCommon Root Words
monoSingleCommon Root Words
montanaMountainsOrigins / Habitat
multiManyCommon Root Words
N
Latin NameEnglish NameArea
nanaDwarfForm or Habit
O
Latin NameEnglish NameArea
occidentalisWest-North AmericaOrigins / Habitat
orientalisEast – AsiaOrigins / Habitat
P
Latin NameEnglish NameArea
pendulaWeepingForm or Habit
phyllosLeaf / FoliageCommon Root Words
platyFlat / BroadCommon Root Words
polyManyCommon Root Words
prostrataCreepingForm or Habit
puniceusRed-PurpleColour
purpureusPurpleColour
R
Latin NameEnglish NameArea
reptansCreepingForm or Habit
roseaRoseColour
rubraRedColour
S
Latin NameEnglish NameArea
sibiricaSiberiaOrigins / Habitat
sylvestrisWoodlandOrigins / Habitat
V
Latin NameEnglish NameArea
virensGreenColour
virginianaVirginiaOrigins / Habitat

As you embark on your gardening journey, embracing botanical and Latin names will make your experience more rewarding. You’ll be able to communicate effectively with fellow gardeners, seek advice with confidence, and understand the unique characteristics of each plant you encounter.

So, don’t be daunted by the dual terminology of plants. Embrace it as a key to unlocking a world of precise communication and timeless knowledge. As you nurture your garden, remember that the language of plants transcends cultures, speaks to experts and beginners alike, and celebrates Mother Nature’s incredible diversity.

Updated on March 15, 2024

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