Botany class: differences between scientific and common names

In plant articles you always see that I put the scientific or technical name, in addition to the common ones. Why? What is the difference between one and the other? It’s time to answer those questions with a short botany lesson.

After reading what I am going to tell you, you will know the differences between names, which will be very useful to learn more about each of them.


  • 1 Botanical name
  • 2 Common name

botanical name

Cycas revoluta

Cycas revoluta, an evergreen shrub widely cultivated in temperate climates.

The botanical, technical or scientific name is one that is normally composed of two Latin words (derived from Latin). It is universal, that is, it is the same in all parts of the world and does not usually change unless it is discovered, after careful study, that this particular plant really belongs to a different genus or that it is even a new species.

Examples: Cycas revoluta , Phoenix canariensis , Rebutia minuscula .

Common name

Chorisia speciosa, known as Palo Borracho, among other common names. A spectacular flowering tree.

The common, popular or vulgar name is one that is assigned by popular tradition . It can vary from country to country, between regions, and even between nearby towns. For this reason, it is sometimes very difficult to know what plant is being talked about using only the common name.

Example: Chorisia speciosa is called by the common names of Palo Borracho , Bottle Tree , Wool Tree , Palo Rosa and Samohu.

Thus, whenever possible, it is better to have the plants identified by their scientific name, because thanks to it it will be much easier for us to know the characteristics and care of each one of them. But, yes, there is no need to get overwhelmed with this either. There are countless species and it would be an impossible task for a human to know the name of all of them. The ideal is to learn only those that have those plants that we cultivate or that we want to cultivate, little by little, without hurry. 

Over time we will realize that we will have learned a lot.

Botany class: differences between scientific and common names

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