About Scientific Names

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The botanical names used by the Theodore Payne Foundation are in accordance with the The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California, edited by James C. Hickman, third printing with corrections 1996 (Jepson). Jepson provides a collected snapshot of the recognized botanical names for the California flora at the time of publication. There are other floras, as well as studies on individual species, that use different names or revised names. The Theodore Payne Foundation has selected Jepson as it is the primary, comprehensive source of information on California flora and is periodically updated, collecting and incorporating research and findings released since the previous edition.

Botanical names change regularly, for instance, California species within Zauschneria have been moved to Epilobium and California species within Mahonia have been moved to Berberis. Name changes occur as a result of scientific study and the publication of reports and analyses in various publications. These name changes can become recognized and well-accepted before the next Jepson is published. For example, some California species in the genera Yucca have been changed to Hesperoyucca. This change is now appearing in popular publications even though Jepson has not yet published an update. The Theodore Payne Foundation typically maintains the names published in the most current edition of Jepson, and adopts name changes when a new edition has been published. Exceptions are noted under descriptions for individual species.

The naming convention used in this library is:

  • Genera
    • species, subspecies (ssp.), variety (var.) or 'Cultivar'

The non-bold faced type would be the hyperlink to the plant description.

Subspecies and variety names are part of the scientific designation of the plant, while the cultivar name is a popular designation denoting selection of a specimen for certain traits. Cultivar names are always represented in standard font, not italics, and in single quotes. Unfortunately, we have not mastered font controls in Wikipedia yet. As a result, some names that should be italic are not and some names that should not be italic are. Hopefully we will figure out a solution for this technical issue. When we do, text will be corrected appropriately.

What are the difference between Subspecies, Varieties and Cultivars?

Subspecies (ssp.), varieties (var.), and forma (for.) are botanically recognized subdivisions of a species (distinct forms that occur in the wild). There is some argument in the horticultural science community on the differences between subspecies, varieties, and forma.

Cultivars refer to distinct plant forms which are not considered to warrant botanical recognition. They are selected from the garden or from the wild and maintained in cultivation by (mostly) non-sexual propagation methods.

The Jepson Herbarium