Botanical Names

How A Plant Get Its Botanical Name

Naming plants is not an art. It’s a specific science. There is a specific reason plants have been given their often tongue-twisting Latin botanical names. A plant’s botanical name is its formal scientific name. The name is not flippantly given. It is scientifically considered and named to conform to the International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi, and Plants. In short that is better known as ICN.

The purpose of a botanical name is so that there is global conformity when it comes to identifiying a particular plant. Considering there are literally thousands (perhaps even millions) of common names for trees, plants, flowers, algae and fungi, a particular specific name for a specific organism is necessary for the scientific purpose of accurate identification. It’s a complex process and the importance of it is undeniable in the science of Botany. Much more can be discovered about this fascinating process and the strict rules that must be adhered to when correctly naming plants which is, botanically speaking a plant’s valid name.

Ornithogalum adseptentrionesvergentulum

So, rather than go into the long, detailed and complex process of naming a plant, here is the short list and gist to give a bit of the the logic behind plant naming. Consider these indicators when wondering how a plant got its name:

The Form of The Leaf:

acerifolia = maple like
angustifolia = slender leaves
aquifolius = spiny or prickly leaves
buxifolius = boxwood like leaves
buxifolium = boxwood like leaves
ilicifolius = holly like leaves
laurifolius = leaves like laurel
parvifolius = small leaves
populifolius = leaves like poplar
salicifolia = willow like leaves

The Color of The Foliage and/or The Flowers:

albus = white
argenteas = silvery
aureau = golden
azureus = sky blue
caesius = gray blue
caeruleus = dark blue
coeruleus = dark blue
candidus = shiny pure white
canus = ashy gray or hoary
carneus = flesh coloured
cereus = waxy
citrinus = yellow
coccineus = scarlet
concolor = one colour
creceus = yellow
cruentus = bloody
discolor = two colours or separate colours
glaucus = covered with grey bloom or pruinose
incanus = gray, hoary
luteus = reddish yellow
nigra = black
purpureus = dark red or purple
rubens = red or ruddy
ruber = red or ruddy
rufus – ruddy

The Shape of The The Plant When Full Grown:

adpressus = pressing against, hugging
altus = tall
arboreus = tree like
capitatus = head like
compactus = compact, densely growing
confertus = crowded, pressed together
contortus = twisted
decumbens = laying down
depressus = pressed down
elegans = elegant, slender, willowy
fastigiatus = upright, branches erect and close together
humifusus = sprawling on the ground
humilis = low, small, humble
impressus = impressed upon
nanus = dwarf
procumbens = trailing
prostrates = prostrate
pumilis = puny, insignificant
repens = creeping
reptans = creeping
scandens = climbing

The Characteristics of The Plant:

armutus = armed
baccatus = berried or berry like
barbatus = barbed or bearded
campanulatus = bell or cup shaped
ciliaris = fringed
cordatus = heart shaped
cornutus = horned
crassus = thick or fleshy
decurrens = running down the stem
dendron = tree
diffractans = shattering
diversi = varying
edulis = edible
floridus = free flowering
fragilis = fragile, brittle
fruticosus = shrubby
fulgens = shiny
gracilis = slender, thin or small
grandis = large and showy
ifer = bearing or having
iferus = bearing or having
laciniatus = fringed or torn edges
laevigatus = smooth
lobatus = lobed
maculatus = spotted
mollis = soft, or softly haired
mucronatus = pointed
nutans = nodding or swaying
officianalis = medicinal
obtusus = blunt or flattened
oides = like or resembling
patens = open spreading growth
pinnatus = like a feather
plenus = double or full
plumosus = feathery
praecox = precocious, early blooming or early growing
pungens = piercing
radicans = rooting, especially along the stem
reticulatus = net veined
retusus = notched at blunt apex
rugosus = wrinkled or rough
sacharatus = sweet or sugary
sagittalis = arrow like
scabrous = rough feeling
scoparius = broom like

The Geographical Location of A Plant’s Original Habitat:
ensis means ‘of a place’ is added to place names to specify the habitat of origin)

canadensis = of Canada
canariensis = of the Canary Islands
carpensis = of the Cape of Good Hope area
chilensis = of Chile
chinensis = of China
hortensis = of gardens

australis = southern
borealis = northern
campestris = of the field or plains
insularis = of the island
japonica = of Japan
littoralis = of the seashore
montanus = of the mountains
riparius = of river banks
rivalis = of brooks

rivularis = of brooks
saxatilis = inhabiting rocks
tectorum = roof growing

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