Thursday, July 8, 2010


My post about basil, in the herb series, is up at AOL's Shelterpop.

Question: I did not use botanical names for this piece. Basil is pretty common and is usually labeled at markets by its common names. What do you think? As a plant geek I tend towards proper names, but sometimes I think it bores the audience.

Yes or no?

And I couldn't say Basil! without adding this:


  1. basil: one of my favorite plants, and, favorite episodes. hm, mere co-incidence?

  2. I think it's always good to use the botanical name along with the common at least at the start of an article. I know a lot of people hate the Latin names but still think it good practice and gets people more acclimated to them. Personally, I loathe online nurseries who don't use the botanical names -- I came to gardening as an adult and am mainly self taught (book learning), so I actually don't know the common names of many plants. Sorting though a plant list organized by common name is next to impossible for me.

  3. I'm growing the purple variety this year as well. It's become my favorite.

  4. I agree with Klaus. Often there are many different common names for the same plant and it causes confusion. So for me botanical names are a must, even though I get flack from certain quarters. I have a botanical dictionary that gives the meaning of latin and Greek names, which is very interesting. Its a big help to know what the name means when it comes to remembering the botanical name.

  5. Add my voice to the growing list of botanical Latin supporters! And this is my favorite FT episode: "Ees not rat, ees Siberian hamster."

  6. Thank you for your feedback...Latin names now added!

  7. OK, I'm late, but I'm a Latina as well.An editor once asked me to omit the Latin because readers would not understand it. I refused. And was dumped.

    And thankyou for the "Rat" episode.Yesterday, the football, today, Manuel. Viva!

  8. I agree that basil is common enough to omit the botanical name, but also agree that it doesn't hurt to include it. We struggle with that frequently - particularly with annuals. Tagetes, Antirrhinum, Catharanthus, Solenostemon...all common annuals with much more recognizeable common names. I like common names for their interesting stories too. Bergenia is a rather dry name, but "pig sqeak" is downright fun - especially if you can make it squeak. Plants are already very intimidating to some people and botanical names don't do us any favor in that respect. Inclulding both allows us to be accurate for those who care and accessible to everyone else.

    If you really want to make your head spin, dig into what constitutes a legal cultivar name. I'll warn you that it's frustrating, frequently not followed by the industry, and a sure sign that you're a truly hopeless plant geek :)

  9. common name comma latin name i think is especially nice for the layman like me! (go greek basil!)

    lovely photos and now you've inspired me to get some new additions--the heat has hurt my thai basil and i didn't even get to roll ANYTHING!
    (and off topic, my fig is VERy unhappy. leaves are falling off.)

  10. can i still get purple basil? maybe at the farmers market...

  11. Paul, I didn't know one could squeak bergenia.

    Bonbon - what ails the fig? Too wet? Too dry? Did she get parched in the heatwave, maybe no water for two days? That might have sent her into shock. Happened to mine once, leaves dropped off, made more.

    Just make sure it's not too much water, which is worse, long term, than a temporary drought. Let it dry out in the top inch between waterings, even in this silly weather.


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