Plant Species

The phrase plant species or species refers to the second part of a plant’s botanical name.

The Botanical Latin used for the naming of plants can put some people off, but it isn’t really that difficult to understand the basics.

Using the analogy of a person’s name – their surname and forename – and relating it to the genus name and species name often helps to explain the use of these Latin plant names and makes it clearer to understand.

Whereas the genus name refers to the ‘surname’ of the plant, the species name refers to the forename of the plant. So if I were a plant, ‘Shallcross’ would be my genus name and Marie my species name.

The species name relates to a sub-group of one or more plants within the genus. These plants will share similar characteristics with each other.

There may be a single plant within a species, or there may be many hundreds of plants. For example, in the genus Quercus, which is Oak, there are about 450 different plant species whereas in the plant genus Amaryllis, there are only two species, Amaryllis belladonna and Amaryllis paradisicola.

Plant species names will often be descriptive of the plant. Knowing this may help you to understand the binomial naming system as well as learning about the plant itself.

For example, some species name meanings:-

Colour and shape –
Alba – white
Purpurea – purple
Dentana – toothed

Habitat and country, or place where the plant grows naturally –
Montana –mountain
Sylvatica – forest
Japonica – Japan (from Japan, native to Japan)Japanese knotweed, taller than fence, fallopia japonica, weeds, invasive species, garden sos

Fallopia japonica, Japanese Knotweed

One of the characteristics of plants within the same species is that they can easily reproduce with each other.

Occasionally a species name will be referred to as a specific epithet. They mean the same thing.

This use of the term ‘species’ in describing the plant relates to its binomial name, and does not have any bearing on whether the plant is an annual or a perennial.


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