The Scheme for Scientific Naming of Plants

Mar 11, 2019

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. When we use scientific names for plants, we use two names. The first is the genus the plant belongs to, which is a general group so to speak. The second name is the specific epithet, or species, which narrows it down to one individual plant with its own distinguishing characteristics. A plant in bloom now is redbud, Cercis canadensis. If someone finds a redbud growing in nature that’s somewhat different, maybe with a white rather than pink flower color, that plant gets a third name – a variety, and usually that plant can reproduce by seed.  A plant developed by a grower which has a special characteristic is considered a cultivar and it, too, gets a third name. Here are examples of each. An example of a variety is Cercis canadensis variety alba -- a naturally occurring white flowered tree.  Forest Pansy is a cultivar.