Scientific Names – What are they?

Scientific  names – It’s Latin to me and thee

Just imagine how confusing our understanding of food plants would be if they were only described using local, common names in many different languages.

Fortunately, the 18th-century Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus developed a universal system for describing living things within these seven catagories (ranging from general to specific): Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species.

Within the worldwide scientific community, living things are routinely described using their genus and species names.
For example, the scientific name of the tomato plant is Solanum lycopersicum (Solanum is the genus; lycopersicum is the species).
Similarly, the name of the potato plant is Solanum tuberosum.

And so, what do these names tell us about these two plants? For one thing they are distinct species within the same genus, which indicates that they are closely related. Specifically, both are members of the nightshade family of plants: Solanaceae.

So, to be clear and true to understanding, Curious About Cuisine (non scientific!) often incorporates the scientific names along with the common names of specific food plants and herbs.

-Contributed by Paul Erickson, Biologist and Writer, Artist and Musician


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