Scientific and common names
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 seems to be 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.
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!
Can you match these plants to their nicknames?
First Nations plant names
Did you know that most Australian native plants had names a long time before they were given their scientific names? These names came for the First Nations Peoples of the area. In fact, there are about 250 language groups in Australia with the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney sitting on Gadigal land, the Australian Botanic Gardens Mount Annan on Dharawal land and the Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens Mount Tomah on Darug land.
Find out more about the Gadigal people.
The image gallery highlights four species where their three names are known.