When discussing plants, the easiest way to end up confused is by relying on common names. Common names can be fun and fairly descriptive - but they aren’t officially recognised.
Common names such as Baby’s Breath, Evening Primrose, White Cedar and Lamb’s Ears are easy to learn and easy to pronounce, but not very accurate.
Baby’s Breath is sometimes called the Chalk Plant, Evening Primrose can also be called Rose of Mexico and Lamb’s Ears is also called Lamb’s Tongue.
By far the most confusing is the White Cedar which also has names such as Persian Lilac, Pride of Persia, Bead Tree, China Berry and Texas Umbrella Tree.
Each plant can have many different common names, but they are not monitored or policed and will end up causing confusion.
The only way to be 100 per cent accurate with plants is to use their botanical name.
A plant’s botanical name is made up of two parts – the genus and the species.
These two names together (genus first and species second) accurately identifies the plant – no confusion - and the name is the same world-wide.
Even though they may be difficult to learn, plant names can be fascinating because they actually mean something. Let’s look at the botanical name for Baby’s Breath.
One popular species is Gypsophila paniculata. The genus name, Gypsophila, means ‘lover of the chalk’ as this plant prefers a chalky soil. The species name paniculata describes the way the flowers are arranged on the plant – in panicles.
Never be afraid to use botanical names. It’s important and very professional to use the correct names for plants, and it encourages others to keep alive the international practice for the scientific naming of plants.
Cleome hassleriana is the botanical name for the Spider Plant. The genus name refers to the seed pods and the species name hassleriana is named after Swiss botanist Emile Hassler (1864-1937).
Botanical names can be difficult because they aren’t in English and can be pure gobbledegook for horticultural beginners – but they are fascinating and for the most part fun to learn – maybe the trick is to find out what they mean first.
Studying horticulture doesn’t necessarily mean full-time studies. You can pick and choose subjects to suit the time you have available. Timetables for 2017 classes are available, so if you’d like a copy, drop us an email at AgHort@wodongatafe.edu.au
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