Botanical Nomenclature

April 2, 2016

BOTANICAL NOMENCLATURE IN A STANDARD FLOWER SHOW – If you are going to enter plants into Flower Shows or other competitions, it is important to understand the botanical nomenclature so your plants are labeled correctly.  Here’s a basic example:

Genus: Sedum

Species: rupestre

Variety/Cultivar: ‘Lemon Coral’

(Variety occurs in nature

Cultivar is cultivated by someone)

2016-04-02 09.22.16 Botanical Nomenclature

Here is a good, and very detailed guideline that I’ve reprinted from the National Garden Clubs Handbook for Flower Shows.  Don’t be overwhelmed by this, it will sink in slowly!

A. Correct scientific names are encouraged for all horticulture specimens exhibited in a Standard Flower Show and are required for exhibits to win a Top Exhibitor Award in Horticulture. Common names may be added, but not substituted for a scientific name.

B. All families of plants are divided into genera which in turn are divided into species.

  • 1.The genus plus the species is called the binomial name.
  • 2. A variety name added to a binomial is a further subdivision and describes a naturally occurring trait or variation, e.g., alba (white), rubrum (red), grandiflora (large flowered).
  • 3. A cultivar name describes a variation derived through horticultural means, e.g., Tagetes patula ‘Lemon Drop’ (marigold).
  • 4. A series name refers to a group of cultivars that differ only in color. For some hybrid plants of undetermined species, the genus and cultivar orseries is sufficient naming, e.g., Rosa ‘English Garden’ (cultivar), Saintpaulia ‘Optimara Haiti’ (series).

C. Writing a scientific/botanical name.

  • 1. The first letter of a genus is capitalized and the entire genus underlined or italicized as in the examples in B, 3 and 4 above.
  • 2. The species (second name of the binomial) is not capitalized but, like the genus, is underlined or italicized.
  • 3. The variety is written in lower case letters and underlined or italicized with or without the abbreviation var. preceding it, e.g. Pinus glauca var. albertiana.
  • 4. The cultivar is enclosed in single quotes with the first letter of the namecapitalized or with cv. placed before it and the single quotes omitted. See B, 3 and 4 above. The cultivar in B, 3 may also be written Tagetes patula cv. Lemon Drop.
  • 5. When handwritten, genus, species, and variety names are underlined; when mechanically printed, they are italicized. The examples given in B use italics to indicate schedule writing and in C use  non-italics with underlining to indicate handwriting for the botanical names.

D. While the full scientific name as described in B is encouraged for all horticulture exhibits, any part of the exhibit’s scientific name printed in the schedule need not be repeated on the entry card.

  • 1. A section/class of exhibits requiring a genus and cultivar name.
    • a. If the schedule provides the genus name, e.g. Saintpaulia, and possibly the common name (African Violet) the exhibitor need write only the cultivar name, e.g., ‘Gorgeous One’.
    • b. If the schedule provides only the common name, e.g. African Violet, then the exhibitor must write the genus and cultivar on the entry card, Saintpaulia ‘Gorgeous One’.
  • 2. If the genus and species are provided in the schedule, the exhibitor need add only the cultivar name on the entry card.
    • a. If the schedule includes a class that reads Tagetes patula (French Marigold), the exhibitor need write only the cultivar name, i.e., ‘Lemon Drop’ on the entry card.
    • b. If the schedule reads either “Marigold,” or “French Marigold,” with no binomial, the exhibitor must write out the full scientific name on the entry card, i.e., Tagetes patula ‘Lemon Drop’.
  • 3. Nomenclature information stated in the schedule’s section/class, though not required, if repeated on the entry card, may be abbreviated. Examples: S. ‘Optimara Clementine’ (when Saintpaulia appears in the schedule) and T_p_. ‘Lemon Drop’ (when Tagetes patula appears in the schedule). Notice that abbreviations for genus and species are italicized or underlined.
  • 4. It is important for the schedule to contain as much of the plant’s scientific name as possible to educate the public and exhibitors alike and simplify the entry card process.

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