A botanical name is the Latin name of the plant. Botanists around the world have a structure to work with to ensure each plant has its correct name and it is associated with its own family and genus. This classification of plants is governed by The International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (2007 edition) and this code is based on the botanical makeup (botany) of the plant with particular reference to the flower structure and the rules that are necessary for botanists to comply. There is only one botanical name for each plant and it is recognised throughout the world and in any language as it is written in Latin. Why Latin? It is an unchanging language and therefore subject to specific rules that do not change.
All plants belong to a family. A family is made up of one or more genera or Genus. Each Genus is made up of one or more Species.
The family name is not used for plant names but it is useful as it brings together many plants that have similar attributes.
Botanical names are written using the Genus and species. The genus name always starts with a capital letter but the specific name starts in lower case. Lilium regale - the Regal Lily.
Where there is variation within a species there are a number of ways this can be recognised by sub dividing the species by sub-species, variety, form and where it is a plant of garden origin it is a cultivar.
The most noticeable additional names gardeners recognise will be cultivar (cv.) and variety (var.). You will notice more tendency towards cultivar names for garden plants these days as a distinction is made between naturally occurring varieties and new plants developed from seedling variations and sports or mutations.
Another group of plants will be hybrids. These occur when two related species cross pollinate and new different plants arise with characteristics of both species. Where this occurs a multiplication sign x is used to denote that this plant is a hybrid. Depending upon the nature of the cross and the names of the parent plants various rules apply in how it is written. In gardens there are several plants types like roses that it is impossible to identify the parents botanically and a simplified system is used. Rosa ‘Sexy Rexy’.
The naming of Cultivated Plants is set out in The International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (7th Edition 2009).
Writing plant names also has a convention. When writing in a sentence the botanical name of genus and species and varieties should be in italics (for hybrids the x is not italicised). Cultivar names should be surrounded by a single quotation mark and not be italicised.
Examples as if written in a sentence
Hebe speciosa. [Species]
Hebe speciosa ‘Variegata’ [Cultivar]
Hebe macrocarpa var. brevifolia [Variety naturally occurring]
Hebe ‘Mc Ewanii’ [Hybrid]
Hebe ochracea ‘James Stirling’ [Cultivar]