PlantFiles is getting a new look! Just in time for spring, we're rolling out a new look for the best online plants database. It will also work with your smart phones and mobile devices, so now you can take it with you on garden center visits or botanical garden tours. Questions or comments? Please post them here.
We occasionally get these two questions from users:
1) Why do we include common names?
2) Why don't we cite the proper authorities with each name?
Why do we include common names?
The reason is purely pragmatic: it's how most users find PlantFiles and the plant they're looking for. Even the most experienced gardener will occasionally hear of (or receive) a plant that is not accompanied by its current botanical name. Searching for the plant by a common name requires a "process of elimination", but is sometimes the only way to track down the true identity. If we adopted a purist stance and refrained from including the common name, the database would be severely limited in its ability to help the average user.
Why not include authority citations?
To be precise, each plant's scientific name should be accompanied by its author, properly formatted. For example, Portulaca oleracea should be formatted as Portulaca oleracea L. (with L. referring to Linnaeus, or Linne, who originally named it.)
One of its many synonyms should be formatted as Portulaca oleracea L. ssp. granulatostellulata (Poelln.) Danin & Baker
Our mission here is to be for and by gardeners. We believe that providing pronunciation and definitions for each plant's name is more helpful to the majority of our users, rather than getting hung up on providing authority citations. From a technical standpoint, it would be difficult to weave html formatting tags and hyperlinks in and among the citations.
It might sound like we're just being lazy (and maybe we are!); however, in our defense the 1999 International Botanical Congress encouraged editors to be more rational about when it was useful to cite authorities and when not. We've opted to not include them in PlantFiles.
Terry, well said. I always try to learn the botanical name 1st when refer or buy a plant but as you wrote a lot of plants would be hard to find, if the common name was ommited, I grow and hybridize hostas. and the cultivars all have a common name. if you track down the species parents, you would find a botanical name. thanks, Jim King