Common Latin Botanical Terms

Botanical Name - All plants have a name that is unique to them and this is often called the Botanical name, although some people prefer to use the term: Latin name or Scientific name, instead. Plant names are based on the Latin language, which was considered the universal language during the 18th century when a vast majority of the "naming" of newly discovered plants was taking place. Botanical names are descriptive. They describe many characteristics specific to that plant such as: the place of origin, color, growth habit, leaf size, bark texture, etc. Botanical names all have two main parts: a genus (generic) name and a species (specific) name:

Genus - The genus or plant family. Plants in the same genus are closely related (family). Plants in the same Genus have similar characteristics, so when you see the same genus name you'll automatically know something about the plant. Plants in the same genus may interbreed with each other and if they do the resulting plant is a hybrid (see below). Example: Acer - maple

Species - A species is those plants that are the same and will produce viable offspring. Plants in the same species always interbreed with each other. This certainty makes a species a species. Plants within a species can, because of their environment, climate and soil differences, vary in some small ways, such as: different leaf color, size, shape etc., so, as a result, within species you can have: sub-species, varieties, cultivars and hybrids. Example: Acer Palmatum – Japanese maple

Sub-species - A subspecies is a variety within a species that shows identifiable characteristics different from other subspecies. It is usually geographically separate from other subspecies. These are still able to produce viable offspring when two subspecies within the same plant species are brought together. Example: Acer palmatum ssp. amoenum – Japanese red maple “Oshio Beni”

Hybrid - A hybrid is a blending of two different species, usually breeding desirable traits into the new plant. When different species within a family or different families produce offspring, the new plants are called hybrids. Example: Acer x conspicuum 'Silver Vein' – Snake-bark maple

Cultivars - cultivars are plants that have features desirable to the person “cultivating” them. These desirable characteristics have been deliberately selected and can be reliably reproduced in plants under controlled cultivation. Many cultivars are the result of careful breeding, producing hybrids that have desirable leaves, flowers or growth habits. To continue the desired attribute, grafting, layering or cuttings are used to propagate the cultivars. Cultivars are valued, because they insure that a plant will be exactly like the named plant sought. Example: Acer Palmatum Dissectum – Laceleaf Weeping Japanese maple

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