Names are important to us, we use them to explain who or what we are talking about. In your class is there anyone named Sam Brown? Sam might be a short name for Samantha or Samuel, or it could just be Sam. In the same way that we have a surname and a first name, plants belong to different large family groups, and have a scientific name of genus and species.
Sam = common name
Brown samantha = scientific name
Our Wild Carrot is missing part of its scientific name.
Wild Carrot = common name
Trachymene sp. = scientific name
The sp. means ‘species’ and shows us that we don’t have, or don’t know, the full scientific name. Scientific names are shown in italics so you know it’s the special scientific name whereas common names are shown in regular text. Another very interesting fact is that scientific names are usually in botanical Latin. When formal naming of plants started in the 18th century, Latin was the universal language of science. Enter our name a plant competition online.
Can you match these plants to their nicknames?
Our little Wild Carrot needs a name too and the scientists in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney decided to ask you for help.
Pronunciation of Trachymene = Track key meanie
Photographer: Dave Hardin
Get as creative as you can and surprise our jury of scientists and educators from the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.
Here are some tips on how to find a name:
The Do’s and Don’ts of Naming
Make sure your whole group is involved in the process. Work in groups and discuss your results.
Before you start, ask yourself:
What are its special features? Does it have black eyes like a Black-Eyed Susan?
Or does it remind you of something like a Bottlebrush?
Do you like the scientific name and want to change it slightly to make a new name? That’s how Eucalypts ended up with their name.
Do you want to name it after the area where it comes from?
Do you want a funny name?
Go to the link below for a plant with a funny name that received a new scientific name.
And don’t forget, plant names are powerful – did you know that the colour orange is called after the fruit? Before the year 1510, the colour of oranges was called red as they hadn’t coined a word for the colour orange!
How you apply
Application deadline: 11 December 2020
Fill in this application form.
Video or sound files no longer than 2 minutes.
What happens then?
The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney has created a jury. The Chief Scientist, the Executive Director, the Manager of Plant Diversity, and the Education Manager will view all entries and decide which application is the most creative and unique and best fits the plant.
The name will then be tested and published in a scientific paper or book.
Just before Christmas, we will reveal the winner and the Wild Carrot will finally have a name that we all can use.
Activities - Let's find the best name!
1. Botanical Celebrity Heads
Play a game of Celebrity Heads to get yourself in the mood for naming – but give it a botanical twist!
Everyone writes the name of a plant on a card and puts it in a pot. Let your teacher draw a name card and attach it to one of your classmates’ headbands. He or she has to find out now what plant they are by asking clever questions which can only be answered with yes or no…
Am I a tree? Am I big? Am I green?
See who is the quickest in guessing their name!
2. Plant name scavenging hunt...online!
Want to know how certain plants got their names? Jump online and check the history of the following plant names:
3. Name your class
Have a look around and find one word that describes your class – collect them all on the blackboard. Check what words come up most – maybe it will help you to find a name!
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