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17 September 2014
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how to be a gardener - The complete online guide

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2 - Plant names
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Rosa rugosaGenus and species
Just think of plant names like your family name followed by your Christian name: Titchmarsh Alan, except that plants are called by their Genus and species: Rosa rugosa.

Etiquette demands that the Latin name be in italics, with a capital letter for the Genus, lower case for the species.

So, I hear you cry, some plants have three Latin names, separated by subsp., or var. Some have an 'x'. And what's with the words in quote marks that aren't in italics? Well, here goes…

Subspecies, varieties and forms
In the wild, there will be the 'species' plant, which just has the Genus and species name. But nature is a contrary beast and plants may evolve that are very similar to the 'species' but have subtle differences.

A subspecies is a distinct variant, usually based on geographical location, and its name is written Genus species subsp. Subspecies. For example, here's a spurge called Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii.

Phyllostachys nigraA variety is a plant that has a slightly different natural botanical structure. Its name is written Genus species var. variety. For example, Phyllostachys nigra var. henonis is a variety of black bamboo.

A form is a plant that has a minor difference to the species, such as leaf colour, flower colour or fruit. Its name is written Genus species f. form. The form Rosa rugosa f. alba has white flowers. Often the 'f' is left out, so you will see the name written Rosa rugosa alba.

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