UNITED STATES—Botanical names of the vegetation that home gardening involves may seem complicated. Some are difficult to pronounce or spell. A few seem to be as lengthy as sentences. They seem to be a foreign language because most are Latin. Some are Greek. However, they are more valid than common names. What is common here might be uncommon abroad.

For example, Acer pseudoplatanus is a type of maple here in North America. However, it is a type of sycamore in England. Its common name is regionally inconsistent, so can be confusing. Its botanical name, though, is the same everywhere. Incidentally, Acer is Latin for “maple”. Pseudoplatanus is Latin for “false sycamore”. Technically, it truly is a maple.

Technically though, only a few cedars are truly cedars. Both deodar and blue Atlas cedar are species of Cedrus, which is Latin for “cedar”. However, incense cedar is a species of Calocedrus, which is a separate genus. Western and northern red cedars are species  of Thuja, which is arborvitae. Again, botanical names are more valid than common names.

Cars are identifiable by similar nomenclature.

Nomenclature is a standardized application of names. Simple botanical nomenclature is binomial, which indicates that it involves two names. The first is the “general” or “genus” name, which is capitalized. The second is the “specific” or “species” name, which is not capitalized. Both are italicized. Species is singular and plural. Genera is plural of genus.

Botanical names are actually very similar to automotive names. Only italicization and the lack of capitalization of the species are different. Buick, Chrysler and Mercury are all like genera. Electra, Imperial and Grand Marquis are all like species. Sequoia sempervirens uses the same binomial format as Buick Electra. Botanical names really are that simple.

Many automotive species include variants, such as Limited, Custom and LSE. These are like varieties or cultivars of plant species. Such variants are evident by single quotes, but lack italicization. For example, ‘Soquel’ is the cultivar of Sequoia sempervirens ‘Soquel’. (‘Cultivars’ are ‘cult’ivated ‘var’ieties, that are true to type only by vegetative propagation. Varieties can be naturally true to type by seed.)

Highlight: Feverfew

Historical herbal applications were the origin of its now silly name. Feverfew, Tanacetum parthenium, is a relative of chamomile. Its leaves are useful for herbal tea like floral buds of chamomile. Feverfew is delightfully aromatic, although some may disagree about how delightful it is. Some believe that it can repel unwanted insects, but may also repel bees.

Feverfew is likely more popular for its floral display than its aromatic foliage. Its abundant small composite blooms are very similar to those of chamomile. They are nearly as wide as three quarters of an inch. Their yellow centers are a bit flatter. Their ray florets (petals) are a bit wider. They bloom on open trusses that hover loosely above their basal foliage.

Feverfew has lime green foliage with a fine texture. It can stand almost two feet high with bloom standing a bit higher. It migrates slowly, but can slowly get where it should not be. Pruning scraps can root as cuttings. Feverfew prefers rich soil but does not need it. Good sun exposure and even watering are more important. ‘Aureum’ is bright greenish yellow.

Tony Tomeo can be contacted at tonytomeo.com.