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Botanical vs. Common Names

Piers Trehane piers at indhort.demon.co.uk
Tue Nov 18 08:00:09 EST 1997

In article <19971114181701.NAA01997 at ladder02.news.aol.com>, FEVilla
<fevilla at aol.com> writes
>I am looking for an internet source or book which lets you look up plants using
> Common names, and gives you the botanical name. I have seen several books the
> other way around. If anyone can help, please email me at  accenttx at aol.com. 

You may find difficulty here since common names arise through local use
in every language under the sun.  Thus there may be hundreds of common
names throughout the world for a plant with world-wide distribution.
What you may find (especially in the USA where these are used in
commercial horticuture) is a list of vernacular names.  These are
modern, informal translations of scientific names.  So if you see
Sargent's Crab, this is _Malus sargentii_  - a species from China where
it has a number of common names (in Chinese): needless to say, a Chinese
person would never call it Sargent's Crab.

Similarily, the vernacular name for _Aster novi-belgii_  is New Belgium
Daisy.  In Europe, the vernacular name is not used: we (in the UK) call
it the Michaelmas Daisy or sometimes the New York Aster.

If you find a listing of common names, remember that it reflects local
useage and while a common mame in one country (or region of a country)
may mean one plant, quite another plant may be given the same common
name in another culture.

Hope this is helpful and does not disencourage!

Piers Trehane
Rapporteur, International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants

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