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This earlier post covered the rules that apply when naming a plant scientifically.

This post follows on from that, by listing the words which are quite common to these names — and this can be both fun and really handy to know, as these words are quite decriptive once you know their meanings!

I will be adding to this list over time, but by all means feel free to contribute your own words, to help this list grow longer, faster! Full credit given, of course, and even if you wish to remain anonymous I will still make it clear that the contribution was not mine.

Let’s begin!

Words Common in the ‘Species’ Part of the Binomial Name

The ‘species’ part of the binomial name is the second word, always italicised and always beginning with a lowercase letter.

Many of these words have masculine, feminine, and neuter forms.

graveolens

Latin for ‘strong-smelling’
Examples:
Anethum graveolens (dill)
Ruta graveolens (rue)

japonicus (masculine form)/japonica (feminine form)/japonicum (neuter form)

Latin for ‘of/from Japan’
Examples:
Citrus japonica (cumquat)
Camellia japonica (Japanese camellia)

macrophylla

New Latin for ‘having very large leaves’
Examples:
Ficus macrophylla (Moreton Bay fig)
Hydrangea macrophylla (hydrangea)

officinalis (masculine and feminine form)/officinale (neuter form)

Mediaeval Latin denoting medicinal properties
Examples:
Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary)
Calendula officinalis (pot marigold)
Zingiber officinale (ginger)

oleracea

Latin for ‘vegetable/herbal’
Examples:
Brassica oleracea (numerous forms including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower)
Spinacia oleracea (spinach)

purpureus (masculine form)/purpurea (feminine form)/purpureum (neuter form)

Latin for ‘purple’
Examples:
Calostemma purpureum (garland lily)
Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower)

sativus (masculine form)/sativa (feminine form)/sativum (neuter form)

Latin for ‘cultivated’, typically associated with crop plants grown for nutrition
Examples:
Cucumis sativus (cucumber)
Oryza sativa (rice)
Allium sativum (garlic)

sinensis (masculine and feminine form)/sinense (neuter form)

Latin for ‘of/from China’
Examples:
Citrus sinensis (navel orange)
Camellia sinensis (tea-leaf plant)

vulgaris (masculine and feminine form)/vulgare (neuter form)

Latin for ‘common’
Examples:
Berberis vulgaris (barberry)
Foeniculum vulgare (fennel)

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