What do you call plants?

steveTusteveTu Posts: 87
In general what do most people use to identify a plant in way of name? I'm not a gardener, so don't know plants by the latin names (even though I actually did 'do' latin at school - that's how old I am (no Greek though)!) - but if I wanted to talk about a specific plant would the plants 'family' and 'cultivar' be enough for everyone to know exactly what plant I was talking about? And is that typically how 'real' gardeners refer to plants?
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  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 25,322
    The correct botanical name is always the most useful as it  avoids the inevitable confusion when wanting an ID or information about cultivation etc.
    Common names can be confusing, because some plants have many common names, and some common names can also be applied to different plants. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • steveTusteveTu Posts: 87
    But what is the 'correct' botanical name - going back to my pyracantha - if I look at the rhs site for pyracantha I come across this https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/79022/Pyracantha-Saphyr-Rouge-Cadrou/Details - so the family is 'Rosaceae' - genus 'pyrancantha' and then 'cultivar' is 'Saphyr Rouge' - so three levels is enough but presumably two would do - ie 'pyracantha' 'Saphyr Rouge'? I presume the family becomes superfluous  as I assume all pyracantha are the part of 'Rosaceae' - so that becomes a given?




  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 25,322
    Yes, you wouldn't need everything, but it would depend on the query about the  plant too.  :)
    Just as an example - Clematis have loads of different types within the general heading of clematis, but if you were asking about one, we'd need to know if it was an alpina, a montana, the usual Group 2/3, or a hederifolia etc, as the cultivation, habit and requirements are different. Often, the name of the variety would be enough for advice though. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • steveTusteveTu Posts: 87
    @Fairygirl - thank you. So taking your clematis example, if I search the RHS for clematis, I get a 'montana' on the list. That then expands to show me that it's family 'Ranunculaceae', genus 'clematis' and cultivar(?) 'Montana'. But when talking about it I can just quote 'Clematis Montana' and people would know what I was on about?

  • LG_LG_ gardens in SE LondonPosts: 2,423
    You don't need the family. It's interesting and useful to understand which plants are in the same family, but next to useless in terms of identification - just think of all the plants in Rosaceae, eg: cherry, rose, cotoneaster. Genus, species and cultivar (or forma, varietas, subspecies etc - the bit that comes after the species name) is the most specific and will most closely pin down exactly what you're talking about. Sometimes species isn't available due to years of cultivation, so genus and cultivar will suffice. Often you don't need the full details to be pretty sure how a plant will behave / should be treated, and sometimes simply a cultivar name on its own (eg: 'Bowles Mauve') can be enough for most people to know what you're talking about, but if you want to be really sure that you're talking about the same plant then everything from genus down is 'correct'.
    'If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.'
    - Cicero
  • steveTusteveTu Posts: 87
    Thank you both - very helpful. I'll catalogue my plants  using the three levels from family down.Thanks again.


  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 14,864
    And at the very end, are the terms of endearment or otherwise.

    I call mine by those.
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • steveTusteveTu Posts: 87
    @pansyface - I used to (? - still do here) do the same - but coming here and saying 'bee plant' doesn't exactly explain that I'm talking about a deutzia!
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 25,322
    steveTu said:
    @Fairygirl - thank you. So taking your clematis example, if I search the RHS for clematis, I get a 'montana' on the list. That then expands to show me that it's family 'Ranunculaceae', genus 'clematis' and cultivar(?) 'Montana'. But when talking about it I can just quote 'Clematis Montana' and people would know what I was on about?

    Yes - LG has expanded on it, and shows how it's not always helpful, or necessary, to have every detail  :smile:
    Pansyface - and there's those opposite 'terms' as well, such as :  'Grow - ya b*gger'  :D
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • B3B3 Posts: 10,019
    I have a huge fern called Sideshow Bob. Just Bob to his friends

    In London. Keen but lazy.
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