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Plant Names: A Guide to Botanical Nomenclature

Plant Names: A Guide to Botanical Nomenclature

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Plant Names: A Guide to Botanical Nomenclature

312 pages
2 heures
Mar 2, 2020


Plant Names is an invaluable guide to the use of scientific, commercial and common names for plants and the conventions for writing them. Written by horticultural botanists at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, this book covers the naming of wild plants, plants modified by humans, why plant names change, their pronunciation and hints to help remember them, along with updated sections on trademarks and plant breeder's rights. The final section provides a detailed guide to resources useful to people using plant names.

This fourth edition is based on the recently updated International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi, and Plants and the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants. It makes this technical information readily understandable to a range of readers, including botanists, publishers, professional horticulturists, nursery workers, hobby gardeners and anyone interested in plant names.

Mar 2, 2020

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Plant Names - Roger Spencer






This book is dedicated to

Peter Lumley








© Royal Botanic Gardens Board Victoria 2020

All rights reserved. Except under the conditions described in the Australian Copyright Act 1968 and subsequent amendments, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, duplicating or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. Contact CSIRO Publishing for all permission requests.

The authors assert their moral rights, including the right to be identified as an author.

A catalogue record for this book is available from the National Library of Australia.

ISBN: 9781486311446 (pbk)

ISBN: 9781486311453 (epdf)

ISBN: 9781486311460 (epub)

Published by:

CSIRO Publishing

Locked Bag 10

Clayton South VIC 3169


Telephone: +61 3 9545 8400

Email: publishing.sales@csiro.au

Website: www.publish.csiro.au

Front cover: Nymphaea sp., Water Lily (image: Alfred Schrock/Unsplash)

Back cover: (left to right) Dais cotinifolia, Pompon Tree (image: RBGV); Cyrtostachys renda, Red Sealing Wax Palm (image: Rob Cross); Protea cynaroides, King Protea (image: Rob Cross); Abelia × grandiflora ‘Francis Mason’ (image: Rob Cross); Canna cultivars (image: RBGV)

Internal images: p. vi – Xanthorrhoea sp., Grass Tree (image: RBGV); p. xii – Lepidozamia peroffskyana, Pineapple Zamia (image: RBGV); p. xiv – Eucalyptus regnans, Mountain Ash with Cyathea australis, Rough Tree Fern (image: Rob Cross); p. 4 – Canna cv., Canna (image: Rob Cross); p. 6 – Cocos nucifera, Coconut (image: Rob Cross); pp. 10–11 – Eucalyptus forest (image: RBGV); p. 12 – Protea cynaroides, King Protea (image: Rob Cross); pp. 46–47 – Echeveria ‘Zorro’ (image: Rob Cross); p. 48 – Cyrtostachys renda, Red Sealing Wax Palm (image: Rob Cross); pp. 90–91 – Dais cotinifolia, Pompon Tree (image: RBGV); p. 92 – Ceiba speciosa, Silk Floss Tree (image: Rob Cross); pp. 114–115 – Rafflesia kerrii (image: Alastair Robinson); p. 116 – Brugmansia arborea ‘Knightii’, Angel’s Trumpet (image: RBGV)

Edited by Joy Window (Living Language)

Cover design by Andrew Weatherill

Typeset by Envisage Information Technology

Printed in China by Leo Paper Products Ltd.

CSIRO Publishing publishes and distributes scientific, technical and health science books, magazines and journals from Australia to a worldwide audience and conducts these activities autonomously from the research activities of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of, and should not be attributed to, the publisher or CSIRO. The copyright owner shall not be liable for technical or other errors or omissions contained herein. The reader/user accepts all risks and responsibility for losses, damages, costs and other consequences resulting directly or indirectly from using this information.

The paper this book is printed on is in accordance with the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council® and other controlled material. The FSC® promotes environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world’s forests.

Royalties from the sale of this book go to the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria.


This fourth edition is dedicated to the memory of the original senior author Peter Lumley (1938–2013), Principal Horticultural Botanist at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria (formerly RBG Melbourne) from 1976 to 1992. His initial inspiration for writing Plant Names and substantial early input has been evident in all subsequent editions.

Thanks remain to early contributors including Kathy Musial and Lawrie Johnson.

Also thanks to the staff of the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, particularly Jim Ross, Frank Udovicic, Helen Cohn, Neville Walsh and Val Stajsic for critical comments, and to Jill Thurlow and Sally Stewart for assistance in sourcing images.

Thanks to Jeff Strachan, Plant Variety Protection Office, USA; John Wiersema, former Curator of GRIN Taxonomy, United States Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service; Arthur Tucker, Delaware State University; Susyn Andrews, formerly of Royal Botanic Gardens Kew; Alan Leslie, Royal Horticultural Society, UK; John David and James Armitage of the Royal Horticultural Society, UK for permission to reproduce the cover of The International Dianthus Register 2016; Helen Costa-Eddy of the Plant Breeder’s Rights division of IP Australia; and Graham Brown of IP Australia (Trademarks Office). The nursery industry experience of Plant Growers Australia has been invaluable in developing guidelines for printing names on commercial nursery labels, and we thank them also for supplying sample labels.

For the fourth edition we owe special thanks to Nik Hulse and Clara Witheridge from IP Australia, who gave valuable editorial comment in the difficult area of plant intellectual property.

The opinions expressed in this book are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the people mentioned above.





Codes of plant nomenclature

Human-made plants

Why we have two codes

Where plants are growing and how they originated

Part 1 – Wild plants

Common names



Common names as an alternative to botanical names

Historical and cultural value

West Indian Weed Song

Latin names, the binomial system and plant classification

The International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi, and Plants (ICN)

Principles of the ICN

The botanical hierarchy

The nested hierarchy

Ranks and taxa








Natural hybrids

Name changes

Nomenclatural changes

Taxonomic changes

Misidentifications and misapplied names

What name to use?

Part 2 – Cultivated plants and cultigens

The International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants

Cultivated plants

The cultigen

Which plants and which names are covered by which code?

Cultigens and the Cultivated Plant Code

Principles of the Cultivated Plant Code

Cultigen classification

The cultigen hierarchy



Kinds of cultigen



Greges (grexes)


Cultigen hybrids

Naming wild plants brought into cultivation

Wild plants in cultivation named under the ICN only

Wild plants in cultivation that are given cultivar names

Wild plants named separately by botanists and horticulturists

Publishing cultigen names




Formation of cultivar and Group epithets

Use of Latin for cultigen epithets

Translation, transliteration and transcription



Nomenclatural standards

The denomination class and the replication of names

New names for existing cultivars

Procedure for introducing a new cultivar

Is the plant genuinely new?

Does it clearly have some merit over plants already available?

Can the special characters that distinguish it be reproduced?

Would you like to take economic advantage of the find?

How do I choose a new name?

Are there any special requirements for the new cultivar to be officially recognised?

Cultivar registration

Marketing names (trade designations)

Trade designations

Plant breeder’s rights

Where are plant breeder’s rights used?

Protecting a plant using plant breeder’s rights

Commercial synonyms

Plant breeder’s rights symbols


Unregistered trademarks

Registered trademarks

Trademark symbols

Name problems caused by using trademarks

Relative benefits of trademarks and plant breeder’s rights

Plant breeder’s rights, patents and genetic engineering

Part 3 – Using plant names

Writing plant names

Family name

Genus name

Specific epithet

Species name




Cultivar (cultivated variety)


Group names

Collective names and grexes (greges)



Uncertain names

Common names



The structure of Latin names


Which Latin do we use?

General guidelines

Stress on syllables

Short and long vowels

People and places

Remembering names



Word derivations

Recommended format for nursery plant labels

Part 4 – Plant name resources

Books and websites to help with plant names

Accurate lists of botanical names



Lists of validly published names, not necessarily current

Floras and checklists of currently accepted plant names





Europe and Mediterranean

North and South America


Horticultural floras and checklists

International cultivar registration authorities (ICRAs)

Authors of plant names

International Code of Nomenclature and Cultivated Plant Code

Botanical Latin, pronunciation, name derivations and meanings

Botanic gardens and herbaria

Classification systems

Plant breeder’s rights



North America




North America


Glossary and abbreviations




This fourth edition is a response to continued reader demand for an up-to-date plain English account of plant names.

Since the publication of the third edition of Plant Names in 2007 (reprinted in 2008) there have been two International Botanical Congresses resulting in two updated botanical codes: the Melbourne Code (McNeill et al. in Regnum Veg. 154. 2012), which was, for the first time, called the International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi, and Plants (changed from the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature and reflecting the range of organisms covered) and referred to here as the International Code of Nomenclature or ICN, and the Shenzhen Code (McNeill et al., Regnum Veg. 154. 2018). There have also been two new editions of the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (Cultivated Plant Code): the eighth edition in 2009 and the ninth edition in 2016.

Plant resources on the web continue to proliferate so we have responded accordingly in Part 4, ‘Name resources’.

Roger Spencer and Rob Cross

Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria


Most people are introduced to botany and horticulture through plant names. This is important because knowing the correct name for a plant is the key to finding out everything about it.

The use of Latin for botanical names, together with its associated rules and procedures, can seem excessively academic and discourage people from developing a greater appreciation of the world of plants.

Becoming familiar with plant names and understanding the principles underlying their use is an excellent way to make the world of plants more inviting.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about plant names:

•Is there anything wrong with using common names?

•Why are botanical names in Latin?

•Who controls their origin and use?

•Why do they change?

•What exactly are cultigens, cultivars, Groups, greges (grexes) and hybrids?

•Is there a correct way to write and pronounce them?

•How can I remember them all?

•Where can accurate and up-to-date lists of plant names be found?

•Which names and which plants are covered by which code of plant nomenclature?

This book will help you with all of these questions.

The first section discusses wild and cultivated plants and how these have been categorised and named under two plant naming systems or codes.

In Part 1, we examine the use of common names and see how Latin, the original common language of scholars, became established with the development of printing as the international language for plant names. We also see how, later, it became necessary to formulate a set of rules that would ensure consistency in the way names were established and used.

Part 2 explores the difficulties that arose over naming plants that were specially bred or selected for cultivation by humans, and how a similar set of rules became necessary for these plants.

In Part 3, we consider various practical aspects of plant names that are of particular interest to students of botany and horticulture, writers, journalists, plant label manufacturers and others who use botanical names constantly; that is, the way to write, pronounce and remember them.

Part 4 is a

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