How Plants are Named

Did you take Latin in high school and ever wonder where on earth you would use such a language?  I did and now I know where the language is still practiced daily, in the naming of plants!  I have been searching for plant materials for our new garden in Club Liko in Cairo, Egypt so those skills have come in handy albeit they seem to be a little rusty.

Plants have names just like humans and pets have names.  Since plants can be known by several names locally, an international system of plant identification, based on Latin, has been created to eliminate confusion.  The system called the
“The International Code of Botanical Nomenclature” uses the two name Latin names given to each species, so that the plant can be identified across the country or across the globe regardless of language barriers.

Plants are grouped by their botanical similarities.  A botanical family of plants shares certain characteristics such as foliage and/or flower form. Plants are then even further identified and grouped by even more similar characteristics.

The first name of a botanical binomial (plant name) is the genus name.  The second name is called the species name.  For example, the common name maple refers to a genus of plants known botanically as Acer.  The sugar maple is a species within the genus Acer known botanically as saccharum.  Thus, the botanical name for sugar maple is Acer saccharum.

While it is daunting to pronounce many of the botanical names, knowing the correct botanical name is the only way to insure that you find the right plants that work for children.