Botanists Loosen Rules On Latin Plant Descriptions

Botanists of the International Botanical Congress (IBC) have dropped the requirement that newly discovered species be described in Latin, offering the option to use English or Latin descriptions instead, The Washington Post reports. These changes to the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature went into effect on January 1.

“The part that is being relaxed is the Latin description, which is likely a good thing,” says Allan Armitage, Greenhouse Grower columnist and University of Georgia professor. “All plants will still require a Latin binomial to appear in the literature.” Read more about what Armitage thinks about Latin names in his column Common Names: Making Gardening Accessible.

The reason for the switch is because of bottlenecks in getting new plants named and introduced. From the commercial perspective, this move doesn’t change much for day-to-day operations, but the Latin versus common plant name conundrum lives on.

The industry sees pros and cons to the new changes.

“My fear is that ‘dumbing’ down the taxonomic names is going to result in confusion for growers who are like me and the consumer that is going to come running in and say they want an ‘umbrella tree,'” says Denise Schreiber, columnist at North Hills Monthly Magazine. “To me that is Sciadoptys verticillata but it could also be Magnolia tripetala. Common names from different parts of the country already make us crazy and I think in the long run this will contribute to that problem.”

These changes, however, will help the process of introducing new species, says Jared Barnes, garden writer and lecturer with Harvest and Snow.

“Now, plant discoverers no longer have to go through the arduous task of converting the English descriptions into Latin,” Barnes says. “And, if the descriptions are in English, then introducing the species to horticulturists/industry professionals will be less intimidating; the change has the potential to ease communication between botanists and the hort industry.

“However, as the article pointed out, Latin was once the gatekeeper for newly introduced species because only a few people are fluent in it,” Barnes continues. “Now, we have the potential of people introducing new species for their own personal gain. I could also see where the same species would be introduced. Overall, I think the change can encourage a better relationship with botanists and horticulturists, and that’s always a plus.”

What do you think? Tell us in the comments below.

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “Botanists Loosen Rules On Latin Plant Descriptions

  1. I am very sorry that you printed this since it is clear that few people outside the botanical world have any idea about botanical names, and you have generated completely unnecessary concern. It really shouldn't lead to people publishing names for their own profit, given how unpopular scientific names are, and it will have absolutely no effect whatsoever on the relation of common names to botanical names. Umbrella trees will always be one thing to one person and (possibly) another to someone else no matter now the botanical names came to be. Everyone in the industry, please relax. Nothing has really changed for you, and botanists still love you and are willing for you to continue the common name use and possible confusion as long as it remains what you want to do. But please don't think of the situation as common VERSUS latin names. there is already enough real conflict in the world without listening to the journalists with no knowledge of botany who needed a topic for their column on a wintery day.

  2. The article is badly written as it confuses and conflates the question of Latin descriptions and Latin names. Latin names are essential to avoid confusion and are a world wide standard. I am always amazed that people who speak Latin based languages and use the Roman alphabet claim difficulty with Latin names, yet expect people who speak oriental and other quite different languages to adhere to the standard. The precise description of each species has traditionally been in Latin as until last century Latin was the Lingua Franca of academia. Now English has assumed that role. In practice each author of a new species has had to get his or her description translated into Latin, but the number of people learning Latin has diminished. Realistically, the Latin description is mainly of concern only to botanists and it is frequently accompanied by an English version anyhow. The important thing is for horticulturists to use correct Latin names.

More From Varieties...
Dr Allan Armitage

February 8, 2016

Why Succulents Have Become The Hippest Plants On The Market

Allan Armitage says succulents used to be relegated to the far end of the display bench, but their adaptability, decorative value, and low maintenance requirements have now made them a staple.

Read More

February 4, 2016

Poinsettia Growers Discuss Their Recent Trials And Triumphs

Growers from Pennsylvania, Illinois, and North Carolina describer their experiences trialing everyone’s favorite holiday season flora.

Read More
Rhododendron ‘Dandy Man’ (Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs)

February 2, 2016

Spring Meadow Nursery Partnering With Proven Winners Europe To Introduce New Flowering Shrubs

The expansion creates a cohesive brand for what is now a global market, immediately introducing more than 24 shrubs to the European market, with the potential for 125 or more in the future.

Read More
Latest Stories
Dr Allan Armitage

February 8, 2016

Why Succulents Have Become The Hippest Plants On The Ma…

Allan Armitage says succulents used to be relegated to the far end of the display bench, but their adaptability, decorative value, and low maintenance requirements have now made them a staple.

Read More

February 4, 2016

Poinsettia Growers Discuss Their Recent Trials And Triu…

Growers from Pennsylvania, Illinois, and North Carolina describer their experiences trialing everyone’s favorite holiday season flora.

Read More
Rhododendron ‘Dandy Man’ (Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs)

February 2, 2016

Spring Meadow Nursery Partnering With Proven Winners Eu…

The expansion creates a cohesive brand for what is now a global market, immediately introducing more than 24 shrubs to the European market, with the potential for 125 or more in the future.

Read More

February 1, 2016

12 New Poinsettias For Holiday Growing

Poinsettias are still a consumer favorite during the holidays for home décor and gift giving. For greenhouse growers looking to get a jumpstart on purchasing young plants for the 2016 poinsettia growing season, there is no shortage of great varieties to choose from. Here are 12 new varieties to keep in mind for holiday product offerings.

Read More

January 27, 2016

Costa Farms’ Season Premier Provides Sneak Peek A…

Costa Farms presented the 2016 Season Premier at its 2-acre Trial Gardens in Miami, FL, in the third week of January. The event showcases varieties from breeders of all sizes to growers and major retail buyers, providing a look at what genetics are coming to the market and how they’ll perform in retail settings and in the landscape, when consumers bring them home. The mild winter climate in South Florida allows Costa Farms’ Research and Development Department to simulate the spring growing conditions of various regions in the country. Because each group of visitors to Costa Farms’ Trial Gardens wants to see what the new plants look like in the environments that matter to them, Season Premier offers several areas within the Trial Gardens that highlight different ways to look at the wealth of new varieties. The New Product Showcase offers a way for retailers to see how plants will […]

Read More

January 26, 2016

Beekenkamp And Danziger Partner To Distribute Poinsetti…

Danziger is continuing to expand its portfolio of products to the U.S. market with the addition of poinsettia cuttings of Beekenkamp’s varieties.

Read More

January 24, 2016

Positive Consumer Experiences Help Advance The Orchid C…

HGTV HOME Plant Collection plans to expand its Fresh Style product line through a partnership with Green Circle Growers (Oberlin, Ohio), which will supply decorative orchids, tropical plants, and indoor garden combinations. Greenhouse Grower asked Maxwell Sherer about Green Circle's orchid program, the latest trends he’s seeing, and where he thinks orchid growing is headed in the future.

Read More
Sansevieria in Corner of home

January 21, 2016

Tropical And Indoor Foliage Plants Emerge As A Lifestyl…

Consumers are incorporating houseplants into their everyday lives, which is driving the trends toward smaller-size plants and unique products that appeal to a younger demographic.

Read More
Pollinator-Conference-NC State

January 20, 2016

How To Promote Pollinator-Friendly Plants This Spring

Following last year’s launch of the National Pollinator Garden Network, groups like the National Garden Bureau and others remind growers that offering pollinator-friendly plants is a great way to keep up with consumer demand.

Read More
Caladium Painted Frog Series (Plants Nouveau)

January 17, 2016

16 New Foliage Plants To Round Out The Garden

Every garden needs a good mix of flowering and foliage plants for an attention-grabbing show of thrillers, fillers, and spillers. These new foliage varieties will not only act as a lush backdrop for colorful blooms, they can also stand on their own with their noteworthy textures and colors.

Read More
California Coast

January 13, 2016

Mark Your Calendars For The 2016 California Spring Tri…

It’s time to think about registering for the 2016 California Spring Trials. You won’t want to miss any stops along the way, so use this quick reference to help with planning for your trip.

Read More
David Roberts Bailey Nuseries Feature Image

January 12, 2016

Bailey Nurseries’ David Roberts Says New, Novel Varieti…

Roberts was recently hired by Bailey Nurseries to be the General Manager and Breeder for Plant Introductions, Inc., which Bailey acquired last year.

Read More
Kelly Norris - feature

January 11, 2016

Kelly Norris: Questioning The Purpose Of New Plants

Norris asks if the time has come to rethink new plant introductions, or how we market them to consumers.

Read More
Weeks Roses Miss Congeniality

January 11, 2016

Weeks Roses Introduces New Lineup Of Roses For 2016

Weeks breeds and grows a wide range of rose bushes, all of which are field tested for many factors.

Read More
CAST2015_Floranova_Vegetalis_Ageratum Cloud Nine Blue

January 8, 2016

Floranova Opening New Chile-Based Research Station, For…

Floranova has announced it is building a new research station in Chile that will open in mid-2016. As a result, the company will not participate in the 2016 California Spring Trials, but says it will be back in 2017.

Read More
Streptocarpus 'Yellow Blue Eye' (Green Fuse Botanicals)

January 5, 2016

15 Flowering Foliage And Tropical Plants For The Home A…

Tropical and foliage plants are the ultimate lifestyle plants because they enrich the environment and provide mood-boosting benefits. Take into account some of these new introductions for a crop mix that helps your customers realize the true benefits of plants.

Read More
BallSeed-WebTrackToGo-app Feature Image

January 5, 2016

Ball Seed Launches WebTrack To Go App For Mobile Phones…

The app is available for free in the Google Play and iTunes app stores, and serves as a companion to Ball’s full WebTrack business management system.

Read More
Terra Nova Garden Decorating Guide

December 31, 2015

Terra Nova Nurseries Releases New Garden Decorating Gui…

The guide’s wheel-shaped design groups new plants by color and was inspired by the Pantone Matching System color guide.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]