What are the rules for proper formatting of botanical names?
   Compleat Botanica    Using the software    Plant names    Spell-checker   


A botanical name consists of a genus name and a species epithet.  The genus name must begin with a capital letter and be followed by all lower case letters.  Species epithets are to be all lower-case letters.  Both the genus and species should be italicized.

When a botanical name contains a subspecies component the abbreviation "ssp." or "subsp." is inserted before the subspecies in a non-italicized font.

When a botanical name contains a variety component the abbreviation "var." is inserted before the variety in a non-italicized font.

When a botanical name contains a cultivar component the name is surrounded by single quotes and is displayed in a non-italicized font.

The International Association for Plant Taxonomy has prescribed the following rules for formatting plant names:

Summary International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (St. Louis Code)
Initial capital letter for  genus 20.1. The name of a genus is a noun in the nominative singular, or a word treated as such, and is written with an initial capital letter. . . .
Species 23.1. The name of a species is a binary combination consisting of the name of the genus followed by a single specific epithet . . . . If an epithet consists of two or more words, these are to be united or hyphenated.
Species lower-case 60F.1. All specific and infraspecific epithets should be written with an initial lower-case letter, although authors desiring to use initial capital letters may do so when the epithets are directly derived from the names of persons (whether actual or mythical), or are vernacular (or non-Latin) names, or are former generic names
Cultivar epithets 28 Note 5. The International code of nomenclature for cultivated plants provides for the establishment of cultivar epithets differing markedly from epithets in Latin form.
Latin alphabet 60.4. The letters w and y, foreign to classical Latin, and k, rare in that language, are permissible in Latin plant names. Other letters and ligatures foreign to classical Latin that may appear in Latin plant names, such as the German (double s), are to be transcribed.

To be validly published, a botanical name must include its author.  The Compleat Botanica's checklist of botanical names includes the author in most cases.  Nevertheless the author's name is not shown on-screen or on reports because it is not of interest to the non-scientific community.

See also

   Understanding how the botanical name spell-checker works

   All about family names

   Family name endings

   Inter-generic hybrids

   The Uncertain taxonomy checkbox

   Spell-checker and formatting rules

Last reviewed March 25, 2004   


  Order your copy here