tree-logo.gif (7741 bytes) Plant Taxonomy (BIOL308)  -  Stephen G. Saupe, Ph.D.; Biology Department, College of St. Benedict/St. John's University, Collegeville, MN 56321;;

Nomenclature Exercise

Overview:  Deciphering the correct scientific name for a species can sometimes be a challenge.  You may find more than one correct name in the literature for a particular species.  The purpose of this project is to provide an opportunity to learn about sources of information available to the plant taxonomist that can help determine the correct name of a plant. 

Species Selection & Vernacular Name:   Select a plant that grows in Minnesota.  List below the vernacular (common) name(s) for this plant.


Scientific Nomenclature

  1. Species Names.  For this species, locate your species in each of the sources listed in Table 1 and then record from this source (if applicable):  (a) common name(s) they cite; (b) the binominal they accept; (c) any synonyms.  If the plant is not listed in the source, write NA (not applicable)

Table 1.  Summary of nomenclature data from several sources
Resource Vernacular name(s) Accepted binomial Recognized synonyms
Ownbey & Morely (1991) Vascular Plants of Minnesota (copy available in the Bailey Herbarium)      
University of Minnesota Herbarium "Checklist of Minnesota Plants" (available on-line.)      
Flora of North America (available on-line or hard copies in the Bailey Herbarium; if the volume for your species has not yet been published, indicate the volume number in which it will be published)      
Gleason & Cronquist (1991) Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Canada (copies available in the Bailey Herbarium)      
Kartesz,  Synonymized Checklist of the Vascular Flora of the United States (on line)      
USDA Plants Database (on line)      
ITIS - Integrated Taxonomic Information System Database (on line)      
International Plant Names Index (IPNI) (on line)      
  1. Analysis:  Considering the information you have collected, what is the correct (most acceptable) binomial and vernacular name for your species? Explain


  2. Species Publication.  Once you have settled on a name, using a source such as IPNI and ITIS, identify:

a. author of the binomial (full name)  
b. publication in which the name was published  
c. year of publication  
  1. Genus Nomenclature.  Using a source such as the Index Nomincum Genoricum (ING) Data base (US National Herbarium), identify:

a. author of the genus  
b. publication in which the genus name first appeared  
c. year of publication  
  1. Family Nomenclature.  Although family names are relatively stable and generally accepted, it is not uncommon to find some disagreements. 

    a.  What is the correct family name for this species?  Using the Index to Familial Names of Extant Vascular Plants (or Indices Nominum Supragenericorum Plantarum Vascularium or Vascular Plant Family Nomenclature pages - J. Reveal), identify:

    a.  current family name  
    b. author of the family name (full name)  
    c.  publication and date for the name  

     b.  Cronquist, Thorne, Dahlgren, Reveal and Taktajhan are systematists (taxonomic botanists) who have who closely studied angiosperm phylogeny and published listings of plant families, etc.  Compare how they treat this family by examining Concordance of Angiosperm Family Names site.  Record the name of the family used by each of the following botanists.

    Cronquist:   Reveal:  
    Dahlgren:   Taktajhan:  

Systematics & Classification
.  Record the complete Linnaean taxonomic hierarchy (Kingdom, Division, etc.) for your taxon.  This can be obtained from a variety of sources including the ITIS database, the USDA Plants Database, and Indices Nominum Supragenericorum Plantarum Vascularium

Kingdom: ________________________________________________
     Division: ________________________________________________
          Class:  ________________________________________________
               Order:  ________________________________________________
                    Family: ________________________________________________
                         Genus: ________________________________________________
                               species: ________________________________________________

Technical Experts
.  Botanists frequently specialize in one or a few taxa.  These individuals have dedicated a large portion of their life to answering questions about the nomenclature and classification of these taxa.  The World Taxonomist Database or Taxonomic Resources and Expertise Directory (TRED) are excellent sources to locate these specialists.  (An alternate way of finding an expert is to check the author(s) of the various taxa in the Flora of North America.)

Locate an expert for your species.  Record the name and affiliation of this individual(s).  If none, record NA (not applicable)  


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Last updated:  12/03/2007 / � Copyright by SG Saupe