Plant scientists use scientific names to accurately identify and describe plants they study and interact with. A scientific name is a form of binomial nomenclature, which means that pretty much every living thing has a two-part name. The first part is called the Genus and the second part is called the specific epithet. The entire name is the species name. An example of this is Acer rubrum, which is commonly called a red maple. Notice how the genus is capitalized, but the specific epithet name isn’t and that both the genus and species are italicized. Together they create the species name.

Some species have different varieties or cultivars. A variety is a naturally occurring variation of a plant species, and a cultivar is a version of the plant that only occurs with human intervention, in cultivation rather than in nature. To denote a variety, you add var. variety (Ex: Phyllostachys nigra var. henonis Source: Alternatively, to denote a cultivar you would write the cultivar name in single quotes without it being italicized (Ex: Ficus carica ‘Celeste’).

For Random Acts of Nomenclature, we would like for each of you to fill out the template (Random Acts of Nomenclature_1.pdfRandom Acts of Nomenclature_1.pdf) with the scientific name of a plant in your garden and display the sign for others to see. By participating in #randomactsofnomenclature you will educate the public on the use of scientific names, and it gives you a way to share your favorite plants with those around you.

Be sure to post a picture of the #randomactsofnomenclature sign in your garden. Don’t forget to use the hashtag and tag the UT Gardens Knoxville page. We can’t wait to see your gardens!

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