Wikipedia:Naming conventions (flora)

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This page describes Wikipedia's guidelines on choosing article titles for articles about plants.


The guiding principle of this guideline is to follow usage in reliable sources. In the vast majority of cases, this will be the current scientific name. This is because the vast majority of plants are of academic interest only to botanists, and botanists almost invariably use scientific names in their published works. On the other hand, when a plant is of interest outside botany—for example because it has agricultural, horticultural or cultural importance—then a vernacular name may be more common.

Other principles in play here include precision and consistency. Both of these lend further support to the use of scientific names, and the latter leads to standardisation on certain orthographic points.

Secondary, practical aspects include dispute sidestepping[1] and category sorting.[2]


Based on the above principles, the following guidelines have been adopted:

Scientific versus vernacular names[edit]

Scientific names are to be used as article titles in all cases except when a plant has an agricultural, horticultural, economic or cultural use that makes it more prominent in some other field than in botany; e.g. rose, apple, watermelon. These exceptions are determined on a case-by-case basis through discussion towards consensus.

Note that it is often possible to distinguish between plant taxon and plant product, and in those cases it is not necessary to treat both in a single article. For example, it is acceptable to have separate articles on a grape (an edible fruit) and Vitis vinifera (the plant species that most commonly yields grapes). When a decision is made to treat them separately, the taxon article should use the scientific name.

Such splitting is very highly recommended when there is not a one-to-one correspondence between plant taxon and plant product. For example, brussels sprouts, cabbage and broccoli all come from the species Brassica oleracea; and several species of Oryza yield rice.

All vernacular names and synonymous scientific names referred to in an article should be entered in one of the following page types:

Alternatively, a hatnote may need to be created where a primary topic for the name has already been established (e.g. geranium, Myroxylon).

The Manual of Style says that English vernacular ("common") names are given in lower case, except where proper names appear. Examples are mountain maple, common sundew, but English sundew, Low's pitcher-plant. Personal names should be capitalized only when they refer to specific individuals; thus for Arum maculatum, English names include Adam and Eve and jack in the pulpit – "jack" here does not refer to a particular individual. English names should be sourced in the same way as all other information in the article. Create redirects from alternative capitalizations of English names used as article titles.

Don't confuse WP:COMMONNAME with common name[edit]

Our WP:Article titles policy contains a section entitled "Use commonly recognizable names", more often referred to by the short-cut: WP:COMMONNAME. It is important not to confuse Wikipedia's concept of COMMONNAME with a plant's common (or vernacular) name. The policy uses the word "common" in the context of "what name is most frequently used", and not in the context of "what name do common folk use".

It is typical for a plant's scientific name to be the COMMONNAME (i.e., the most frequently used in reliable sources). For example: the same type of plant may be called two different vernacular names in different regions. However, since both regions also refer to the plant by its Latin scientific name, that scientific name is actually more commonly recognizable than either of the vernacular names.

Monotypic taxa[edit]

When a taxon contains only a single member, both taxon and member are usually treated in a single article. In such cases, the article title is chosen from among the "principal ranks" specified by the Code of Nomenclature. The relevant ranks are:


  • Suborders that contain one family are treated at the article of that family.
  • Divisions of families (subfamilies, tribes and subtribes) that contain one genus are treated at the article of that genus.
  • Divisions of a genus (subgenus, section, subsection, series, subseries) with a single species are treated at the article of that species.

However, because genera are better known than the other ranks (and families are better known than orders):

  • A family or order with a single genus is treated at the article for that genus.
  • A genus with a single species is treated at the article for the genus.
  • An order with a single family is treated at the article for that family.

In all these cases, create redirects from the missing ranks (i.e. those without their own article), and include them in bold text in the lead section.

However, if the name of a monotypic taxon is shared with another topic, it is usually more appropriate to use a binomial as a natural disambiguation rather than creating an article with a parenthetical disambiguating term for the taxon. E.g., Alberta magna is a more natural search term than Alberta (plant genus).

Ranks requiring connecting terms[edit]

Articles on infrageneric or infraspecific ranks should be named with the abbreviation for the rank in the title as follows in the table below:

Rank Abbreviation Examples
Subgenus subg. Banksia subg. Isostylis
Section sect. Drosera sect. Stolonifera
Subsection subsect. Epidendrum subsect. Carinata
Series ser. Banksia ser. Spicigerae
Subseries subser. Banksia subser. Longistyles
Subspecies subsp. Acacia coriacea subsp. sericophylla
Variety var. Anadenanthera colubrina var. cebil
Subvariety subvar.  
Form f.  
Subform subf.  

Subspecies is sometimes abbreviated as ssp., but this can easily be confounded with the abbreviation for plural species, spp.. The abbreviation subsp. is therefore used here.

Hybrids, cultivars and provisional names[edit]

Articles on hybrids use the Genus × species convention; e.g. Nepenthes × hookeriana. The character in the middle is a multiplication sign (U+00D7), which should not be italicized.[3] A redirect should be made at the spelling with an "x".

Cultivar names are not italicized and are placed in single quote marks as per the requirements of the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP).[4] Each of the words within the epithet (with some permitted exceptions such as conjunctions) is capitalized, e.g., Osteospermum 'Pink Whirls'. Articles on named cultivars follow the Genus 'Cultivar Name' convention for single-species parentage; e.g. Grevillea 'Robyn Gordon'.

These two conventions are combined for hybrid cultivars; e.g. Ulmus × hollandica 'Dampieri'.

The name of a Group (formerly cultivar group), following the requirements of the ICNCP, is capitalized and not italicized, and includes the word Group e.g., Cynara cardunculus Scolymus Group.

Several conventions exist for naming unpublished taxa, all of which are complicated, and none standardised. In the rare case where an unpublished taxon is notable enough to warrant a Wikipedia article, the article title should use the provisional name exactly as given in reliable sources; e.g. Grevillea sp. Mt Burrowa.

Selling names[edit]

In addition to a unique cultivar name (regulated by the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants), many cultivated plants have "selling names" or "marketing names"; the ICNCP calls these "trade designations". Trade designations are not regulated by the ICNCP; they are often different in different countries and can change over time. The ICNCP states that "trade designations must always be distinguished typographically from cultivar, Group and grex epithets." They should never be set in single quotes. Some are also registered trade marks (which cultivar names never are). There is currently no consensus as to how to represent trade designations in Wikipedia.

If an article is given a title including a trade designation, it is recommended that the template {{tdes}} is used. If a consensus on displaying trade designations is reached in future, consistency will be easy to achieve. Using the template also makes clear to other editors that no cultivar name is involved. For example, to give an article the title "Rosa Peace", create the article with the title "Rosa Peace" and then put {{DISPLAYTITLE:''Rosa'' {{tdes|Peace|plain}}}} at the start. To give an article the title "Buddleja Nanho Blue", create the article with the title "Buddleja Nanho Blue" and then put {{DISPLAYTITLE:''Buddleja'' {{tdes|Nanho Blue|caps}}}} at the start.


If the scientific name of a plant has recently been changed (e.g. a species has been transferred into a different genus), and there is no reason to believe that the name change is contentious, use the new name regardless of usage in older reliable sources. It is not appropriate for us to retain archaic terminology while we wait for usage in older reliable sources to be swamped by usage in newer sources.


When a genus or lower-level taxon is the article name, the title should be italicized following standard practice in biology publications. There are multiple ways to accomplish this:

  • {{Italic title}}, which works for most scientific names, including those with a parenthetic identifier, but not including those with a subgenus, cultivar, variety or nonitalicized abbreviations
  • {{DISPLAYTITLE}} (Example: {{DISPLAYTITLE:''Homo'' (genus)}}, which works for all titles but is less concise)
  • The {{Taxobox}}, {{Automatic taxobox}} and {{Speciesbox}} templates can all produce italic titles without the need for {{Italic title}}; see the documentation for these templates.

The entire scientific name should be italicized. Note that the 'connecting forms' used in infraspecific plant names, the hybrid symbol, and abbreviations such as "cf.", "sp.", etc. are not part of the scientific name and should not be italicized. Thus Cyclamen hederifolium f. albiflorum ("f." is not italicized), Passer cf. domesticus ("cf." is not italicized), Corvus sp. ("sp." is not italicized). Any parenthetic expression should not be italicized unless it is part of the scientific name, as in the case of a subgenus, which is always italicized.

Examples (these titles may or may not exist in Wikipedia, they are provided only to show how to format such cases):

  • Lilium
    • {{Italic title}}
    • {{DISPLAYTITLE:''Lilium''}}
    • Omit the name parameter in the taxobox (unless the name parameter is being used for a vernacular name)
  • Asparagus (genus)
    • {{Italic title}}
    • {{DISPLAYTITLE:''Asparagus'' (genus)}}
    • Omit the name parameter from the taxobox
  • Watsonia (plant)
    • {{Italic title}}
    • {{DISPLAYTITLE:''Watsonia'' (plant)}}
  • Ulmus americana 'Beebe's Weeping'
    • {{DISPLAYTITLE:''Ulmus americana'' 'Beebe's Weeping'}}
  • Ulmus × hollandica 'Dampieri'
    • {{DISPLAYTITLE:''Ulmus'' × ''hollandica'' 'Dampieri'}}


  1. ^ Many arguments were caused by plants more notorious outside their native range and called different names as natives and invasives. At the time when the convention was first implemented, this was a major issue, as was the question of capitalization.
  2. ^ Latin names do not require elaborate sortkeys to keep related plants together within non-taxonomic categories.
  3. ^ For plants, see all the examples in McNeill, J.; Barrie, F.R.; Buck, W.R.; Demoulin, V.; Greuter, W.; Hawksworth, D.L.; Herendeen, P.S.; Knapp, S.; Marhold, K.; Prado, J.; Prud'homme Van Reine, W.F.; Smith, G.F.; Wiersema, J.H.; Turland, N.J. (2012). International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (Melbourne Code) adopted by the Eighteenth International Botanical Congress Melbourne, Australia, July 2011. Regnum Vegetabile 154. A.R.G. Gantner Verlag KG. ISBN 978-3-87429-425-6., Appendix I, although explicit reference to not italicizing the hybrid symbol is restricted to the use of the letter x (H.3A.2).
  4. ^ Brickell, C.D.; Alexander, C.; David, J.C.; Hetterscheid, W.L.A.; Leslie, A.C.; Malecot, V.; Jin, X.; Editorial committee; Cubey, J.J. (2009). International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP or Cultivated Plant Code) incorporating the Rules and Recommendations for naming plants in cultivation, Eighth Edition, Adopted by the International Union of Biological Sciences International Commission for the Nomenclature of Cultivated Plants (PDF). International Association for Plant Taxonomy and International Society for Horticultural Science. Article 14, page 19.

See also[edit]