Botanical name is the Latin name that’s given to each individual plant based on an international classification system called the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature.
Botanical names consist of the genus of the plant followed by the species. The first letter of the genus is capitalized and the entire botanical name is written in italics.
Echinacea is the genus, but there are nine different species.
Two of the most popular species of Echinacea are angustifolia and purpurea. The botanical names are Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea.
The purpose of assigning botanical names to plants is so that each plant has a single name that’s used worldwide to identify it. Botanical names prevent people from confusing different species of plants, but also indicate that different species are related.
Advantages of Botanical Names
Unique to Only One Plant
Every plant has at least one unique botanical name (or scientific name or Latin name) to it. This means that every botanical name refers to one and only one plant. Some plants may have more than one botanical name, yet this is not very common.
Solve Language Problem
Different countries have different set of common names for the plants. Due to the difference in language and culture, it could be very difficult to identify different species of plants. A botanical name solves this language problem and prevents people from confusing different species of plants.
Give Hints of Genus and Species of Plants
The botanical name of a plant is composed of two major parts, the genus and the species of the plant. So, if we know the botanical name of the plant is Sarracenia flava, we will know that the plant is a carnivorous plant in the genus of Sarracenia.
A botanical name is a formal scientific name conforming to the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN) and, if the plant is a cultigen, the additional cultivar and/or Group epithets must conform to the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants. The purpose of a formal name is to have a single name that is accepted and used worldwide for a particular plant or plant group. For example, the botanical name Bellis perennis is used worldwide for a plant species, which is native to and has a history of many centuries use in most of the countries of Europe and the Middle East, where it has accumulated various names in the many languages of that area. Later it has been introduced worldwide, bringing it into contact with languages on all continents. The cultivar Bellis perennis ‘Aucubifolia’ is a golden-variegated horticultural selection of this species. English names for this plant species include: daisy, common daisy, lawn daisy, etc.
Advantages of Botanical Names
- They give vital information on the plant’s relation to other species according to the different categories.
- It can also give information on where the plant grows or how it looks.
- Latin also has the advantage, in this instance, of being an international language.
- Latin names are controlled by international rules. For cultivated plants there is the International Code for Cultivated Plants, 1980.
- The scientific name, the botanical nomenclature, is regulated by The International Code of Botanical Nomenclature.
- It is governed, in some measure, by international rules of nomenclature.
- The names are same among the scientific people of the whole world.
- The names are uniformly binominal, i.e. consisting of two parts, one generic name and one specific name.
- Scientific names greatest advantage is its exactness.
- It is also claimed that the botanical names are descriptive of the plant, although persons not skilled in Greek or Latin cannot appreciate it.
Disadvantages of Botanical Name
- The usefulness of botanical names is limited by the fact that taxonomic groups are not fixed in size; a taxon may have a varying circumscription.
- The group of a particular botanical name refers to can be quite small according to some people and quite big according to others. This will depend on taxonomic viewpoint or taxonomic system.
E.g: The traditional view of the family Malvaceae includes over a thousand species, but in some modern approaches it contains over four thousand species.
- Some botanical names refer to groups that are very stable (for example Equisetaceae, Magnoliaceae) while for other names a careful check is needed to see which circumscription is being used (for example Fabaceae, Scrophulariaceae, Urticaceae, etc.).
- Latin names are also difficult to memorize. For these reasons, some organizations and government agencies are attempting to create a list of official names based on the country’s native or official language.
- They are long and hard to learn.
- To ordinary people they are unfamiliar and, being in Latin or in Latinized Greek meaningless.
Common names can differ from region to region, and even within regions. There are no rules for trivial (common) names in English. This means that those names, unlike botanical names, can’t be trusted to be accurate.
Common plant names or common names of plants, also called vernacular names, local names and country names, are the names used to refer to specific plants as contrasted to scientific names, botanical plant names or Latin names.
Their usage may be restricted to a small tribe having a unique dialect, a province, a region or a country. Others, often in English, are used with wide international recognition. Many publications separate the English common names from the vernacular names.
Advantages of Common Names
- The main advantage of using common plant names is ease of usage and common understanding in certain geographical areas and, conversely, the prevention of confusion among the laymen who do not understand Latin.
- It will be a great advantage to those who are engaged in disseminating or learning the fundamentals of crop farming and to the agricultural extension workers if they are also familiar with common names. However, It is impractical, even preposterous, to try to convince the layman to memorize and use scientific names.
Disadvantages of Common Names
On the disadvantage, many common plant names cause confusion not only locally but internationally. Worst, unscrupulous plant traders can easily invent common names for personal profit with total disregard to the possible injury, financially or physically, that it may cause.
- Many common names are not unique to a specific plant. Different species of plants (plants that might not even be related) may have the same common name.
Many plants are commonly called tumbleweed, or generally called as moss or daisies.
In the world of carnivorous plants, both Sarracenia and Darlingtonia are called cobra lilies, and there are about eight different species of Sarracenia called trumpet pitcher plants.
- Some Plants Don’t Have a Common Name.
- Some plants that are not so common to begin with, don’t have any common name for plant identification.
While the common name – trumpet pitcher – gives us no hint of how the plant looks like (the botanical name of the plant does).
- They may be quite indefinite.
- They are restricted to the people of one language or even one part of a country.
- They are not regulated by any constituted authority.
- They are too vague for scientific usage.
- A person will have to learn many sets of names of a single plant or animal.
Here is a factual example of how common plant names or common names can mislead:
In the Philippines, ginseng became so popular among men as a medicinal plant, primarily for its purported aphrodisiac property. It was even featured on a national television.
But this ginseng is not the same as that world famous plant which belongs to the genus Panax. It is actually Jatropha podagrica, also known by the common names Buddha belly plant, gout plant and bottle plant. Just like physic nut (Jatropha curcas), also commonly called “tubang bakod,” “tuba-tuba” and “kasla”, and other plants of the genus Jatropha, all parts of the Buddha belly plant are poisonous when ingested. Jatropha plants may contain hydrocyanic acid (Begg and Gaskin, 1994).
Other Examples of Confusing or Misleading Use of Common Plant Names
– Bangkok or Thailand kalachuchi for Adenium obesum (Impala lily or desert rose). “Kalachuchi” is the Filipino name for Plumiera acutifolia (Temple flower, Graveyard flower, Frangipangi) (Merrill, 1912). “Lily” and “rose” may likewise mislead.
-Bell pepper and chili or hot pepper belong to the genus Capsicum but black pepper is the common plant name for Piper nigrum.
– Chinese bamboo for Dracaena godseffiana (gold-dust dracaena). D. godseffiana is not a member of the bamboo family but of the Agavaceae. It has oval, shiny leaves, covered by light spots. The height of this plant is up to 70 cm. (thehouseplants.com, 2009).
-Corn (Zea mays) is also called maize. But in England, corn refers to wheat and, in Scotland, rye or barley (herbarium.usu.edu, accessed May 21, 2010).
-Gensan mango for a plant which is not among the various species underMangifera but probably Spondias cytherea, a close relative of Spondias purpurea(red mombin, Spanish plum, siniguelas).
Indian ricegrass for Achnatherum hymenoides, but it is not a close relative of either rice or wild rice.
– Money tree for Ochna kirkii (Mickey mouse plant). The common name was invented by nurserymen who sold the plant in potted form. Within a short time, it became popular as a lucky plant, supposedly having magical charm which promotes financial success to the grower.
-Onion (Allium cepa) is known as bawang besar in Brunei and Malaysia andbawang Bombay in Indonesia (scribd.com, accessed Sept. 21, 2010). But bawang is also the common plant name for garlic (Allium sativum), also known as “ahos”, in the Philippines.
– Traveller’s tree (Ravenala madagascariensis) is also called Traveller’s palm. But it is neither a tree nor a palm, it only looks like a palm plant. It belongs to the banana family, Musaceae (Steiner, 1986).
– Alagasi (Leucosyke capitellata) has 35 other common names in the Philippines (stuartxchange.org, accessed Sept. 20, 2010).
-White waterlily (Nymphaea alba) has 15 different English common names. Including the common German, French and Dutch names, it has a total of more than 240 names! (Jenks, 2010; oregonstate.edu, 2010).