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
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.
ends in -eae
ends in -eae
ends in -ales
ends in -aceae
ends in -us or -a
name is always capitalized and in italics
ends in -us or -a alternifolia
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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