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Botanical Nomenclature

Classification of plants is done by the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature.

Classification of plants

Scientific (or botanical) plant names may include:

  • Family is a group of plants in related genera that share common reproductive characteristics.
  • Genus is a group of species – the species all have fundamental similarities – the first letter of the genus is always capitalized.
  • Species is group of plants that are similar and can produce similar offspring. They share a common gene pool and can freely interbreed.  The specific epithet (the word which when combined with a genus name defines the species) is always written in lower case.
  • Genus and Species are written in italics or underlined.
  • Cultivar is a cultivated variety, a cultivated selection of a species or hybrid, and is denoted by cv. or ‘    ‘.
  • Variety is a natural selection and is denoted var. – a variety is a subgroup of the species with minor, often inconspicuous differences – plants can be bred true to the variety.
  • Hybrid is usually a cross between two different species, done by manipulating pollenation, and is denoted by x.


  • Ilex vomitoria – genus = Ilex, species = vomitoria
  • Ilex vomitoria ‘Schillings’ – the cultivar is named Schillings
  • Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum ‘Burgundy’ – this is the red-leafed variety of the Chinese Fringe-flower and is further distinguished by the cultivar Burgundy
  • Ilex x attenuata – hybrids created by crossing Ilex cassine and Ilex opaca
  • Ilex x ‘Nellie R. Stevens’ – thought to be a hybrid between Ilex cornuta and Ilex aquifolium
  • Abelia x grandiflora – hybrid between Abelia chinensis and Abelia uniflora – could be written Abelia chinensis x A. uniflora

Common names are the local name given to a plant. Many plants have more than one common name and some common names are applied to more than one plant. The common names are written in plain text but the first letter of each word is always capitalized.

Garden Origin means that the plant originated through selection or hybridization.