How are plants technically named? Gardening On

Acer palmatum cv Little Princess

Acer palmatum cv Little Princess.
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Human beings have the need to put a name to everything, if we did not do it, we could not relate them to others with the ease with which we do. The problem is that, in the same way that we have created different languages, each town or region calls its plants in one way or another. Thus, what for the Spanish is a Ceratonia siliquafor South Americans it is a Prosopis pallida. They are two very different trees, but both are known as carob.

To prevent confusions it was urgent to create a scientific namewhich was also universal, for each type of plant being discovered or to be discovered. And so we have reached our days, in which now the doubt is … How are plants technically named?

What are the plants called?

Leaves of Acer palmatum 'Atropurpureum'Leaves of Acer palmatum 'Atropurpureum'

Acer palmatum var. dark purplefrom my collection.

To make this article easier to understand, we are going to use the scientific name as an example Acer palmatum var. dark purplewhich is known as japanese purple maple.


The gender is a group that brings together several related species. In the case of maples, their most common characteristics are palmate deciduous leaves, lovely fall colors, and temperate habitats. It is always placed first, with the first letter capitalized.

If we see in the example, Acer is gender.


A kind is a set of individuals that are capable of interbreeding and having fertile offspring. It must be borne in mind that each specimen is unique and unrepeatable, even if it has siblings from the same parents. That is why it is so easy to have two sister plants and for one to grow wonderfully and the other to have problems. It is written after the gender, in lowercase.

In the example palmate is the species.


Variety It is a population that has characters that make it recognizable even though it can hybridize with other populations of the same species. Formally, it gets there. after the species and then the variety itself, but you may find that it is quoted.

In the example atropurpureum is the variety.

Other words you have to know

Leaves of Acer palmatum 'Seyriu'Leaves of Acer palmatum 'Seyriu'

Acer palmatum subsp. dissected ‘Seiryu’ from my collection.

There are other terms that are important to know when you want to learn to spell the technical name of plants well, which are:

  • Subspecies: it is a population that, in addition to having all the characteristics of the species, has others that make it unique. For example: Acer palmatum subsp. dissectionwhich has very divided webbed leaves.
  • Shape: it is a population that presents an occasional modification of the species, associated or not with its natural habitat.
  • Hybrid: it is a population with characteristics of two different species. For example: the crossing of palm trees Syagrus romanzoffiana with butia capitata give rise to X Butyagrus nabonnandii.
  • Cultivate: a cultivar is a group of plants that have been artificially selected from a variable crop in order to fix or enhance some characters that are of interest. For example: Acer palmatum cv Little Princess It is a small Japanese maple cultivar, which does not exceed two meters in height.

Has it been of interest to you?

How are plants technically named? Gardening On

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