This article is only a primer to describe some of the main rules adopted internationally for writing plant names, botanical names as well as horticultural names and to explain how some of these rules are appropriate for use on this forum. Periodically these rules are changed. It is quite possible that in a few years, or sooner, some of the rules outlined here will have been changed. The rules for botanical nomenclature are covered by the ICBN (International Code of Botanical Nomenclature) and the rules for cultivated plants are covered by the ICNCP (International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants). The ICBN is published online and is available to anyone with an internet connection to examine. The ICNCP is available as a somewhat pricey volume available from the International Society for Horticultural Science.
[Note: It is important to format and spell official plant names, as correctly as possible, using the most appropriate format. This forum is not an official scientific forum, so plant names can be used here in a much less formal way. It is, however, helpful to be as accurate with spelling and format as we can be. If you are unfamiliar with the name or spelling of a plant you are posting about, look it up, most names can be found using the CP Database and copied and pasted for ease and convenience.]
[Note: Officially, scientific plant names are written in italics (on the forum this is optional), generally their name is written in two parts, hence, the reason it is called a binomial naming system. The first part of a species name is called the genus, its first letter is always written as a capital letter, even when it is abbreviated to the first letter only. The second part of a species name is called the "specific epithet", or sometimes, incorrectly the "species epithet", it is always written in all lower case letters. Only both the genus name and the specific epithet, together, comprise the actual “species name” (the complete species name, both parts, spelled correctly, are most appreciated on the forum). In official scientific documents the species name is then followed by a notation indicating the person who initially published this species name. You can see this format at the CP Database. On the forum it is also okay to abbreviate the genus name to its first letter, capitalized and followed by a period, then followed by the specific epithet.]
[For example: to use a specific epithet, without the genus or genus abbreviation is like using a persons first name without their last name. That might be okay if you are having a verbal conversation and all persons involved know who is being discussed, but not so good if the conversation is in written form and others will be looking to read what has been written about that person at some future time. For instance, say the conversation is about someone named John Adams, but the last name is never used. Later when someone wishes to find everything written about John Adams, they will not be able to, because in this case John was never identified by his last name. It could be disastrous for John Adams if he were unconscious and a doctor was trying to learn important medical history in order to treat him and save his life. It could be even worse if he were simply referred to by a "common name", for instance a nickname - Skip. Ten years from now, or even ten weeks, who is going to know who "Skip" is?] [Note: As concerns our beloved CP; this forum is a reference, and becomes a database or archive of information about caring for these plants. It is only as valuable as we make it. Locating all posts concerning particular plants is easier when their names are, at least, spelled correctly and nearly impossible when they aren't.]
[Note: Following are some examples of correctly written names including the proper form for cultivated variety (cultivar) names:
Drosera capillaris or D. capillaris
Drosera capillaris ‘Emerald’s Envy’, Drosera ‘Emerald’s Envy’ or D. ‘Emerald’s Envy’
Sarracenia flava or S. flava
Sarracenia flava ‘Burgundy’, Sarracenia ‘Burgundy’, or S. ‘Burgundy’
The following informal stipulations have been created for this forum and other similar situations, where official cultivar naming conventions have not yet been instituted.
When referring to plants that exhibit recognizable variations, of possible horticultural or other merit, that have not yet been registered as cultivars, it is usually acceptable to include descriptive words or terms, after the plants name, in full, double quotes, parentheses, brackets, or other punctuation, rather than with single quotes, since single quotes are reserved for use with validly registered cultivar names. Examples of this follow:
Drosera capensis (All red)
Drosera capensis “Red leaf”
Drosera filiformis “All-red”
Drosera filiformis (All red leaves, Washington county, Florida)
In the above examples, the important thing is not to use single quotes, in order to avoid having unregistered clones of species or hybrids, appear to be considered as registered cultivars, since the use of single quotes is reserved for registered cultivar names. Some other important things about cultivar names is that they are never written in italics, they follow either the genus name, especially if they are derived from hybrids, or the species name, but it only needs to be preceded by the genus, the name is enclosed in single quotes, each word or words that comprise the cultivar name must begin with a capital letter.]