The Garden Guide

Book: Gardening Science - the Vegetable Kingdom
Chapter: Chapter 1: Plant Nomenclature

Specific names of plants

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991. Specific names are generally Latin adjectives, used to express some quality in the plant; such as Banksia serrata, integrifolia, dentata, &c.; or Ixora alba and coccinea, Scleranthus annuus and perennis, Aletris fragrans, Saxifraga cernua, &c. Names derived from the size of the flower or leaf are, however, often inconvenient, as sometimes after a plant has been named grandiflora, or grandifolia, another plant, with still larger flowers or leaves, is discovered in the same genus. Comparative appellations are very good, as Banksia ericifolia, Andromeda salicifolia, Saxifraga bryoides, &c. Names which express the local situations of different species are excellent; such as Melampyrum arvense, pratense, nemorosum, and sylvaticum, Carex arenaria, uliginosa, and sylvatica, as well as palustris, aquatica, maritima, rupestris, alpina, nivalis, used for many plants. But names derived from particular countries or districts are liable to much exception, few plants being sufficiently local to justify their use. Thus, Ligusticum cornubiense is found, not only in Cornwall, but in Portugal, Italy, and Greece ; Schwenckia americana grows in Guinea as well as in South America. Such, therefore, though suffered to remain on the authority of Linnï¾µus, will seldom or never be imitated by any judicious writer, unless Trollius europï¾µ'us and asiaticus may justify our naming the third species of that genus, lately brought from America, americanus. The use of a plant is often commudiously expressed in its specific name, as Brassica oleracea, Pupaver somniferum, Inocarpus edulis; so is likewise its time of flowering, as Primula veris, Leucojum vernum, ï¾µstivum, and autumnale, and Eranthis hyemalis. Sometimes the specific names are generic names used adjeetively, to signify the change that has taken place in removing the species from the genus, of which the adjective was the name; as, for example, Veronica Chamï¾µ'drys indicates that Chamï¾µ'drys was formerly the generic name of that species of Veronica. Commemorative names are also used as specific names, sometimes in the genitive case, as Verbena Drummondi, indicating that the plant was discovered or originated by Mr. Drummond ; or with the addition of ana, as Verbena Tweedieana, indicating that the plant was named in honour of Mr. Tweedie.