I love getting corrected. Really I do! I think it it hard for some to admit being wrong, or maybe misinformed but it’s really hard to thank the person for helping enlighten you to facts.
For years I have used ‘Agave Snout Weevil’ to name the little beast that takes out gorgeous Agave. It was recently brought to my attention that essentially you are calling it an Agave Weevil Weevil, since by definition, all true weevils have elongated snouts. So from this point forward, we will be calling Scyphophorus acupunctatus by Agave Weevil.
Which brings me to another point: the common name. We know each and every known organism on this planet is classified and named with binomial nomenclature, or the genus and species. The Genus is capitalized followed by the lowercase species. They are italicized but can also be underlined, which is appropriate especially when written.
So back to the common name. Many plants have multiple common names, especially if grown in different regions. Let’s look at the the sissoo tree, Dalbergia sissoo, which is also called Indian rosewood in our area. Since this tree grows in many places around the world, there are multiple common names: Indian rosewood, East Indian rosewood, dalbergia, Himalaya raintree, Indian dalbergia, penny leaf tree, penny-leaf tree, shisham, sisso, sissoo. This makes it extremely difficult when shopping for plants by their common name. You may think you’re ordering one plant, but you receive something completely different since different species can also share a common name.
To add even more confusion, we add cultivars and varieties to plant names, which are listed after the species. You’d like to plant a Texas sage, but which one? There may be a number of Leucophyllum frutescens, including. L. f. var. white cloud, L. f. var. heavenly cloud, and L. f. ‘Compacta’ grown at your local nursery, which, to most look nearly identical.. As you can see, requesting a Texas sage can be a big mystery of what it will look like (size, growth habit and flower color) if you are not specific with what variety you’d like.
Common names are written all in lowercase, unless there is a proper name included in the name: Perry’s penstemon, California fan palm, or Canary Island date palm. Some plant breeders will also name special varieties of plants, trademarking them such as The Swan Hill Olive tree. Generally trademarked plants are somewhat special. Either they are bred for disease resistance, special features like a magnificent flower color, or even superior growth like the Prosopis glandulosa ‘AZT’, which has been bred to be thornless.
Once you’ve learned the scientific name, the name changes. Seriously, they change scientific names all the time and believe me, it is hard to keep up! A great place to check if a scientific name is current is at The Plant List. If you think you know the name of a plant, but someone corrects you, take note and do a little digging to see if your friend or neighbor is accurate. Maybe the you got it right this time, but if not, be grateful and thank them for helping build your floral or fauna knowledge.