Use Common Names with Caution

To achieve full plant nerd status one must try to use the scientific name (sometimes called the Latin name) when speaking about plants.  Every plant has one scientific name that consists of the genus name, species name and when necessary, the cultivar name. 

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Note: Common is not a plant, just an artist with a common name.

Scientific names are important because the common names are very often are applied to more than one plant, or have more than one common can be applied to a single plant. For example: The common name, “Black-eyed Susan” can be applied equally to: Rudbeckia hirta, Rudbeckia fulgida, Rudbeckia subtomentosa, etc… Conversely this plant scientifically named Artemisia ludoviciana can be referred to by common name as: Louisiana Artemisia, Louisiana Sage, White Sage, Prairie Sage, Silver Sage, White Sagebrush, Louisiana Wormwood, Silver Wormwood, Louisiana Sagewort, Gray Sagewort, Cudweed Sagewort, Mugwort Wormwood.  (I’m not sure how Mugwort Wormwood ever caught on, but that fact is neither here nor there.) 

Using scientific names can definitely help avoid confusion when specifics are necessary! While we’re on specifics, scientific names should always be written like this: Genus species Genus name us always capitalized. Species name is always lowercase. Text in italics. Example:  The Urban Naturalist Team collected seeds today from Echinacea purpurea, Lobelia cardinalis, and Schizachyrium scoparium. If this is too confusing, just remember this Common will always be Common, no matter what. 

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