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        NOMENCLATURE

        In the plant world, a scientific name may be used as the common name, however not visa versa.  Common names are randomly assigned, they vary from one location to another.  Wild tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) is known in English as stink weed, bitter button, English cost, ginger-plant and parsley-scented fern.  The French refer to it as tanaise, herbe amere or herbe d'effort.  This system creates a lot of confusion.

        Scientific names of plants are governed by the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN).  This is a universal code, and applies to every known plant.  The ICBN sets the standards for use of scientific names and periodically updates these names.  All names must conform to the rules of Latin grammar and be written in the Latin alphabet, even if the name is derived from anther language.  The regular revisions of the names is an inherent cause of confusion. 

        For example Roman Chamomile has been updated to Chamaemelum nobile, however, the old name Anthemis nobilis. still appears in texts because books are rarely updated.

        How are the names derived?  The plant kingdom is divided into five divisions.  Each division is separated into classes, which are broken down into orders, which are again divided into families.  Families are divided into genera and again into species.  The categories of scientific names have specific endings or suffixes, which apply to all names. 

Melaleuca alternifolia, for example:

Division ends in -eae          Angiospermeae

Class ends in -eae               Dicotyledoneae

Order ends in -ales             Myrtales

Family ends in -aceae         Myrtaceae

Genus ends in -us or -a       Melaleuca

        Genus name is always capitalized and in italics

species ends in -us or -a     alternifolia

        species name is not capitalized and is always in italics

        If we know the meanings of the above terms, we can know the genealogy of the plant.

        Herbalists and aromatherapists need to be concerned with only two of the five plant divisions, the angiosperms and gymnosperms.

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All Rights Reserved 2004. No part of this article may be used
without prior permission from The Aromatic Plant Project.
Author's Copyright and Jeanne Rose, info@aromaticplantproject.com



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