Tag Archives: botanical names

More plant names

After my previous little meltdown over trying to identify the accepted names of plants, I went for a walk and came back ready to bash my head against the botanical-name brick wall again. Then I discovered the complication that is the cultivar name…

Sites like The Plant List won’t return any results for a cultivar name, and if you add the cultivar name to the end of the genus and species name, they won’t return any results at all.

There’s no end to the complications! I had no idea, and if I had had any idea, I wouldn’t have started this. I seriously don’t care what these plants are called, it just bothers me that they’re given lots of wrong names all over the place – the same way it bothers me when people quote texts or sayings or whatever without checking the source for themselves. Eventually everyone ends up quoting each other instead of the original source and the actual text is wrong, or attributed to the wrong person. (Finding a misquote DRIVES ME CRAZY, to an extent that is so exaggerated it should embarrass me, but doesn’t. While out walking this afternoon I was trying to work out why I get so upset about these things – which in the scheme of things are obviously pretty trivial – but I couldn’t look around at the scenery and think at the same time, so I stopped thinking.)

So, now it’s not only misquotes that annoy me, its the misnaming of plants too. The stupid thing is that I don’t care what the accepted plant name is. I just think that if there is one, we should be using it. Because that’s its name. If it’s name is Aaa bbb, it shouldn’t be called Aaa zzz var. eeffgg. And if it was originally called Aaa bbb, but then some bright spark decided to reclassify the damn thing and most of the other bright sparks agreed, and the name changed so long ago that everybody should know about it by now, then there’s no excuse for still calling it Aaa bbb when its name is now Bbb ccc.

Having said all that, it’s really difficult to find out what the accepted name is. And apparently it’s even more difficult if the plant you’ve got is a cultivar (which according to my sketchy knowledge so far is just a specific sort of plant within a species that can be propagated so that the new plant is the same as the first… or something like that).

I’m wishing there was one site that could identify the correct name, including the cultivar name. I did a search for Chlorophytum comosum ‘Vittatum’ (which I know as a spider plant), where Chlorophytum is the genus name, comosum is the species, and Vittatum is the cultivar name.

I tried this search on a few different sites, hoping to find results which would list the cultivars too. I tried seven sites, but only one of them listed the cultivars: thank you, Botanic Gardens Conservation International.

But wait: that site doesn’t tell you if the names they’ve listed are the accepted ones. The results included four variations on the Vittatum theme:
– Chlorophytum comosum ‘Vittatum’
– Chlorophytum comosum cv. ‘Vitatum'[sic]
– Chlorophytum comosum ‘vitatum'[sic]
– Chlorophytum comosum var. vittatum

Which one, if any, is the accepted (correct) name?

Good luck there, citizen! You’re on your own. You can go with the most popular option (the first one), but how do you know that most people know what they’re talking about?

I did find a link to a site which lists the institutions which keep records of cultivar names – which are apparently not the same institutions which keep records of genus and species names – but there was no source listed for the Chlorophytum genus.

So, there we go. I’m going to watch TV.

Plant names

I’m trying to clean up my plant notes and get all the labels sorted and so on, and to do that I have to find the correct name for each plant, which I thought would be relatively easy.

But instead it’s difficult and frustrating – over and over again, for every single plant. I don’t know what the problem with the botanical naming system is, but apparently there’s a major impediment which stops anybody from knowing what the hell any plant is supposed to be called. For every one accepted (correct) name there seem to be any number of other frivolous ones that are used and interchanged and misquoted all over the damn internet, until the odds are very much against you ever finding the good information – if it exists at all. Maybe for some plants, like the Neoregelia sp. ‘Fireball’ I mentioned the other day, there isn’t an accepted name. I think that’s ridiculous, but there we go. It may be that the whole of the botanical-naming world is ridiculous, so the ‘Fireball’ would feel right at home.

An example of my troubles: I have a plant which is labelled as “Aeonium atropurpureum nigrum v. Schwartzkopf”. According to the The Plant List (a database which seems to be drawing on good sources of information), that name doesn’t exist. Neither does Aeonium atropurpureum. There’s a list of Aeoniums, lots of them, but none include any of the terms (other than “Aeonium”) used in the name on my plant’s label.

I can’t remember how, now, but it took about half an hour and somehow I discovered that my plant might be called an Aeonium korneliuslemsii. That’s if it’s not a variation, of which there are four, in which case there should be “var. [something]” added to the end.

Need I point out the fact that Aeonium korneliuslemsii has NOT A LOT IN COMMON with my plant’s label, which said it was an Aeonium atropurpureum nigrum v. Schwartzkopf?

I wanted to get all my plants listed today, but now I’ve slumped to a sad and angry halt instead. It’s so frustrating, the whole process: trying, failing, slumping. I’m tired.