The Importance of Botanical Names

borage herb flower

These beautiful flowers belong to ….?

You wouldn’t dare call a friend or relative by any other name than their own. Unless it’s your day for being rude. Nor would you call your potato salad an apple salad. You’ll just confuse your guests.

We usually call plants by their common names. But these names can be very confusing.

Example: Don’t confuse me…

You tell me that thyme is a wonderful antiseptic. I go home and want to find more information about thyme. Using a reputable database like the USDA PLANTS Database I do a search on the common name thyme. My search returns 26 records. So which one were you referring to?…

On the other hand, if you tell me that Thymus vulgaris is a wonderful antiseptic my search will be spot-on.

Botanical plant names are in Latin and they are used uniformly all over the world. For example, a species of hedge roses is called Rosa multiflora. Such species names should always be either underlined or printed in italics and the first word, which identifies the genus to which the species belong, should be capitalized.

As the English language contains many words from Latin a lot of these botanical names look quite familiar.

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  1. Natasha Allison says:

    The herb in the picture is Komkommerkruid or borago officinalis:) Thank you for this lesson. I suppose knowing a little Latin might help understand the meanings of the names. But I’m happy to just learn the names of the herbs I use.

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