Holy What?! Getting to the Source

Botanical names

It is vital to understand the value and importance of Latin scientific names, also known, for plants, as botanical names. A botanical name is binomial in that it is made up of two parts: the first part indicating the genus of the plant, and the second part, the species. For example, Bursera graveolens (Figure 1) begins with the name of the genus – Bursera - followed by the name of the species - graveolens. Botanical names are universally recognized and help to consistently reference and catalog species.

Figure 1. Bursera graveolens

Unlike the common names of plants – names like ‘holy wood’ - botanical names are specific, accurate and consistent as they are scientifically recognized throughout the world. In contrast, the same common name can refer to a variety of different botanical species.

For example, the common name ‘palo santo’ is used by local peoples in different geographical regions to describe two very different...

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