By Kit Knotts
Because the Internet has revolutionized communication, it has become more important than ever to take advantage of some standard tools for exchanging information worldwide. Botanical nomenclature is the international language of plants and at our disposal.
Because Latin or Latinized forms of words are used for much of the naming of plants, using scientific names may seem a little artificial or even intimidating at first. Use of common names often limits understanding to a particular region while use of botanical names is international. Once you become familiar with some basic rules, reading and writing plant names can be easy. Pronouncing them is a whole other subject.
As Piers Trehane has said, taxonomy is just a matter of organizing things into groups. Nomenclature gives those groups names. The naming of plants is governed by the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN) for wild plants and by the International Code of Nomenclature For Cultivated Plants (ICNCP) for plants that have been created or influenced by man.
Latin and/or Latin form is required for naming wild plants and the use of modern languages is required for cultivated plants. Binomial nomenclature of species, invented by Linnaeus and used today, means two names, one at the rank of genus and another at the rank of species. Ranks are Kingdom, Division, Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species. These can be further broken into subfamily, tribe, subtribe, subgenus, section, subsection, series, subseries, subspecies, variety, subvariety, and forma.
In a scientific name, the genus (plural is "genera",
adjective is "generic") name comes first and will always
be in Latin or Latin form. It will sometimes be abbreviated,
especially after it has already been