Plant names style: common names

Unless the plant’s scientific name and common name is the same, the common name should be lowercase, roman.

In common names that include a proper noun, capitalize the proper noun:

coneflower
butterfly bush
Jack-in-the-pulpit
Shasta daisy
black-eyed Susan

 

Copy editors should question common names when they find discrepancies; however, many plants have more than one common name, and the choice of which common name to use is at the editor’s discretion.

Some plants share common and scientific names. They may appear as lowercase and roman when the usage is common, or they may appear with caps and italics when the usage is botanical, at the editor’s discretion. (BHG: All these should be lc Roman because common/uncommon is arbitrary per Stephen Orr 12/1/2016.) Here are some examples:

aloe
anemone
asparagus
aster
astilbe
begonia
bougainvillea
caladium
camellia
canna
celosia
clematis
cleome
coleus
coreopsis
cosmos
crocus
dahlia
delphinium
dianthus
forsythia
fuchsia
gardenia
hibiscus
hosta
hydrangea
impatiens
iris
lisianthus
lobelia
magnolia
narcissus
petunia
phlox
rhododendron
salvia
sedum
verbena
veronica
viburnum
viola
wisteria
yucca
zinnia

 

Some names designate different plant genera when used commonly or scientifically. Therefore, it’s best to clarify them on first reference by using both common and scientific names. In subsequent references, capitalize and italicize when referring to genera and lowercase and romanize when referring to the common name. BH&G: Will avoid using both unless perhaps in plant lists. Per Stephen Orr 12/1/2016)

azalea (Rhododendron spp.) or rhododendron (Rhododendron spp.)
bacopa (Sutera cordata) or water hyssop (Bacopa spp.)
blue mist spiraea (Caryopteris spp.) or spiraea (Spiraea spp.)
cranesbill (Geranium spp.) or geranium (Pelargonium spp.)
chrysanthemum (Leucanthemum spp.)
vanilla: extract of beans from the Vanilla vine, which also produces orchids

 


 


Plant names style

• Common names
Parentheses
Scientific names
Trademarked plants

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