If you are looking for one specific plant it helps to know the scientific or botanical name. That way you can be sure you will find the right plant..

Many plants have non-scientific common names in the own language of a country but that is not always practical. Those names are more like collective names which do not indicate which variety or subspecies it concerns with the corresponding properties. Next to that there is often more than one common name for the same plant. And last but not least there are common names that are used for different plants from totally different families. Conclusion is that there is a big chance that confusion arises when using common names. By using the scientific names you can make clear which specific plant it concerns.

If you see a garden phlox with white flowers somewhere that you want in your garden as well you want to be sure that you will get that specific plant. You do not want to get stuck with a garden phlox with purple flowers. The name garden phlox is not specific enough. The scientific name, for example Phlox paniculata ‘Casablanca’, is very specific. If you buy that plant you can be absolutely sure that that is exactly that same plant you saw.

Easier to share information

We exchange more and more information through the internet and between different countries. Therefore it is better to make the information internationally accessible. The scientific plant names are universal. This makes it a big advantage to use scientific names instead of the common names of a specific country.

The correct way to write the names

The common names are not generic names or proper names and are therefore starts with a lower-case letter. The scientific names consist of a genus name and a species name. The genus name starts with a capital letter and the species name with a lower-case letter. The scientific name is written in italics or underlined. Next to species there are also varieties (= var.) and subspecies (= ssp.). Varieties that are created by human intervention are called cultivars (cultivated varieties). A cultivar name is put in single quotes, not italicized and every word starts with a capital letter.

The scientific names consist of Latin words for the largest part but also some Greek words are inherited from the past.

The meaning of some of the Latin words used in plant names:

 

acaulis

stemless

alba

white

angustifolia

with narrow leaves

annua

annual

argentea

silvery

arvensis

of the fields

aurantiaca

orange, golden yellow

aurea

golden, yellow

australis

from the south

autumnalis

blooming in autumn

azurea

blue

blanda

pleasant, mild

botryoides

like a cluster of grapes

caerulea

blue

caespitosa

dense

campanulata

like a bell

campestris

of the fields

canadensis

from Canada

capensis

from the Cape, South Africa

chilensis

from Chili

chinensis

from China

chrysantha

with yellow flowers

coccinea

with red flowers

compacta

compact

cordata

heart shaped

coronaria

crown

cylindrica

cylindrical

decidua

deciduous

densiflora

dense flowered

densifolium

dense leaved

diffusa

loosely spreading

digitata

(leaves) like a hand, with 5 lobes

dulcis

sweet, tender

dumosum

bushy

elatior

taller, higher

esculenta

edible

erythropus

red foot

farinosa

floury, powdery

flava

yellow

flora plena

with double flowers

foetida 

with an unpleasant smell

fulgida

shining, shiny

glabra

smooth, without hairs

grandiflora

large flowers

grandifolia

large leaves

hirsuta

hairy

humilis

humble

inodorum

without any smell

japonica

from Japan

lanceolata

lance-shaped

lancifolia

lance-shaped leaves

latiflora

wide flowers

latifolia

wide leaves

longiflora

long flowers

longifolia

long leaves

lutea

yellow

macrantha

large flowers

macrophylla

large leaves

macrorrhiza

large roots

maculata

spotted

majus

bigger

maritima

from the sea

micrantha

small flowers

microphylla

small leaves

millefolia

with a thousand leaves

mollis

soft

montana

of the mountains

multiflora

many flowered

nana

small, dwarf

nemorosa

of the woods

nigra

black

officinalis

with herbal uses

orientalis

eastern

pallida

pale

palustris

from marshes

paniculata

bearing a plum or panicle

parviflora

small flowers

parvifolia

small leaves

pauciflora

few flowers

paucifolia

few leaves

pendula

hanging

perennis

perennial

pinnata

with pinnate leaves

polyphylla

with many leaves

praecox

early, from spring

prostrata

creeping

pumila

small, dwarflike

puniceus

purplish

purpurea

deep pink, purple

pygmaea

small

quercifolia

oak-leaved

reptans

creeping

rosea

pink

rotundifolia

round-leaved

rubra

red

rupestris

growing on rocks

sanguinea

blood red

sativa

cultivated

saxatilis

growing on rocky ground

sempervirens

always green, evergreen

semperviva

perennial

sibirica

from Siberia

somniferum

sleep bringing

speciosa

spectacular

spicata

spiked

spinosa

spiny

stellata

star-shaped

subulata

awl-shaped

sulphurea

yellow

sylvestris

of the woods

tenuiflora

thin, small flowers

tenuifolia

thin, small leaves

tomentosa

covered with fine, matted hairs, felty

tuberosa

tuberous

umbellata

flowers in an umbel

vernalis

appearing in spring

villosa

hairy

viridis

green

vulgaris

common