The Significance of Botanical Names

botanical names
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Botanical names are the names given to plants, fungi, and algae based on an international scientific classification system called the "International Code of Botanical Nomenclature". The Code was first developed in 1905 and has undergone regular revisions based on the consensus of taxonomic botanists around the world. 

The purpose of assigning botanical names to plants is so each plant has a single name that is used worldwide to identify it.

Plants also have common names, but the problem is that one plant can have different common names around the world or plants that are not closely related can have similar common names. For instance, Siberian ginseng is sometimes confused with other types of ginseng such as American ginseng even though they are different plants. Having a single scientific name for each plant helps to avoid confusion while still indicating how different plants are related. 

Botanical names consist of a first name, called the "genus" (shared by a group of plants with the same structural characteristics) and a second name, called the "species", which usually refers to the plant's features or growing habitat. For example, alba means white, longifolia means long, spinosa means spiny, odorata means fragrant, and Chinensis means that it is native to China. The species allows for the differentiation between different plants within a genus.

There may be a third name to distinguish between naturally occurring varieties ("var.") or subspecies ("subsp.") within a species.

There are also hierarchical levels above the genus, such as the family. Family names begin with a capital letter and often end with the suffix "ceae". 

When written, the first letter of the genus is often capitalized, and the entire botanical name is typically written in italics, e.g. Echinacea angustifolia.

The genus and species are generally Latin or are words with roots in other languages such as Greek.

For example, echinacea is the genus, but there are nine different species. Two species of echinacea often used in herbal medicine are angustifolia and purpurea. The botanical names are Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea.

If referring to a plant but the species is unknown, the genus is used followed by "sp.", for example, Echinacea sp. If the entire species within a genus is being referred to, the genus is followed by "spp.", for example, Echinacea spp.

Possible Confusion With Botanical Names

As science advances, some species are renamed in order to reflect current knowledge. For example, the herb milk thistle is Silybum marianum but for many years, the botanical name for milk thistle was Carduus marianus. 

Also Known As:

A plant's Latin name or scientific name.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.