Understanding Taxonomical Names

During our live Q&A we received a lot of questions about taxonomical names. This pages explains how to read taxonomical names, Florae’s naming protocol, and why Florae doesn’t use common names.

This article assumes the reader has a basic understanding of taxonomy. If you’re new to taxonomy, we recommend this video and this article.

As always, contact us at [email protected] if you have any questions or feedback!

Binomial Nomenclature

All living organisms are classified using binomial nomenclature. This means plants are identified with a two part name, the genus and species.

Binomial Nomenclature = GENUS + SPECIES

An example of binomial name is Masdevallia pachyura. Masdevallia is the genus and pachyura is the species.

Pretty simple, right? However, things get more complex. Let’s break down different types of binomial names.

Formatting Rule: Capitalize the genus. Italicize the genus and species.

Masdevallia pachyura


Hybrids are made when two or more different species produce an offspring.

A simple hybrid is when there are only two species in a given cross. An example would be Nepenthes spectabilis x talangensis.

Formatting Rule: The first species listed is the female and the second is the male.

That means this hybrid was made by crossing a female spectabilis with a male talangensis.

Nepenthes spectabilis x talangensis

A complex hybrid has three or more different species in the cross. Nepenthes (veitchii x burbidgeae) x platychila was made by pollinating a female (veitchii x burbidgeae) with a male platychila.

Nepenthes (veitchii x burbidgeae) x platychila

Taxonomy uses nested parenthesis following the same rules as the order of operations (Remember PEMDAS from algebra?). This means hybrids are enclosed in the following order:

  1. parenethesis ( )
  2. brackets [ ]
  3. braces { }

Understanding nested parenthesis allows us to understand the lineage of a plant. Let’s look at Nepenthes {[(lowii x veitchii) x boschiana] x [(veitchii x maxima) x veitchii]} x platychila. If we follow the parenthetical rules, we can create a full genealogical chart.

Formatting Rule: Always use parenthesis ( ) first, brackets [ ] second, and braces { } third.

Named Hybrids

Named hybrids are hybrids that have been given their own name. An example of a named hybrid is Nepenthes xtrusmadiensis, fully known as Nepenthes lowii x macrophylla.

Named hybrids usually happen with natural hybrids, which are hybrids that commonly occur in the wild.

Formatting Rule: Named hybrids always start with an “x”

Nepenthes xtrusmadiensis


In simple language, a cultivar is a unique offspring from a given cross.

For example, all apples we buy at the grocery store are the same species: Malus pumila. The flavors you recognize like Red Delicious and Gala are in fact unique cultivars. Their full taxonomical names would be:

  • Malus pumila ‘Red Delicious’
  • Malus pumila ‘Gala’

For Cephalotus follicularis ‘Triffid Albany Black’, Triffid Albany Black is a cultivar of the species Cephalotus follicularis.

Cultivars are common with monotypic genera (like Cephalotus or Dioneae). A monotypic genus is when there are only one species in the entire genus.

Formatting Rule: Cultivars are written in single quotes ‘ ‘ and are not italicized.

Here are examples of different Cephalotus follicularis cultivars:

Unnamed Species

Occasionally we will offer species that have not been taxonomically named. Plants without a name are written as GENUS + sp. Nov. + DESCRIPTOR, where sp. Nov. means “species novel.”

So Nepenthes sp. Nov. Papua New Guinea is a novel Nepenthes species from Papua New Guinea.

Formatting Rule: The descriptor of an unnamed species is not italicized.

Nepenthes sp. Nov. Papua New Guinea

Additional Information

Taxonomical names are a rabbit hole one can easily fall down. For more information, please see The International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants

Here are additional abbreviations one might encounter in taxonomical names:

  • syn. → synonomous
  • spp. → Multiple species within said genus
  • var. → variety
  • aff. → affinitive

Florae Product Names

When posting plants on the website, we include additional information in the product name. Please see below for how we name our products.

Example: Nepenthes ephippiata, Hose Mountains | FC-045 | S3849

1GenusSee aboveNepenthes
2Specific EpithetSpecific epithet encompasses species, hybrids, cultivars, unnamed species, and any crazy combination of the above!ephippiata
3Additional InfoMorphological characteristics, location or elevation data, clone names, etc.Hose Mountains
4ProducerThe person or business who propagated the plant.Florae
5Propagation MethodHow the plant was propagated (ex. Rooted Cutting)Tissue Culture
6Producer CodeThe code assigned to the plant by the original producer. Usually a lab codeFC-045
7Specimen NumberThe unique specimen number assigned to the plant.S3849


  • Components 4 through 6 are all separated via a vertical slash |
  • The assumed propagation method is tissue culture. Thus, tissue culture plants do not have the propagation method listed.
  • The amount of information included for each plant may vary.

Common Names

If you’re made it this far you might be asking – why not just use common names?

A good answer to that question can be found here. It’s a professional’s view on why taxonomy and latin are important for botany. Courtesy to wildflower.org and Dr. Damon Waitt.

Test Your Skills!

Can you parse out all the hybrid lineage, cultivars, and additional information from these names?