Have you ever wondered why plants have those Latin
names? This is a way for people of the world who speak different languages
to have a common way to precisely know they are discussing the same plant,
because not all plants have English names or English equivalents of names. A
plant can have multiple common names since there is no authority overseeing
them. Also one common name can be used for multiple plants. It can be
confusing. The Latin names are carefully regulated and help simplify
accurate communication since each unique plant has a unique Latin name.
Textbook lesson aside, here is a real world example of plants represented on
our campus at the University of Maryland-College Park.
The common name redtwig dogwood can represent 3 distinct and different
species: Cornus sericea (formerly C. stolonifera) or redosier
dogwood, native to much of the northern half of North America, Cornus
albaor Tatarian dogwood, native to Siberia, Manchuria and N. Korea, and
Cornus sanguinea or bloodtwig dogwood, native to Europe and western
Asia. Collectively, these plants are used in ornamental landscapes because
their twigs tend to have bright, attention-grabbing colors which are
particularly noticeable during the winter months. Redosier dogwood is also
frequently used as a moisture-loving rain garden plant. Although each
species naturally displays red bark on new growth, hence the name redtwig
dogwood, each species also has cultivated varieties with yellow twigs.