The starting point for modern botanical nomenclature, or the system of naming the plants we use today, is the binomial nomenclature developed by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) in 1753. This system is based on the principle that each plant (or animal) has a scientific name consisting of two parts: the generic name and the specific epithet.
The generic name identifies the genus to which the species belongs, and it is a word that can be treated as a Latin singular noun. The specific epithet identifies the species within the genus, and it is also treated grammatically as a Latin word, usually an adjective or a noun, or sometimes a participle. The first letter of the generic name is always capitalized, while the first letter of the specific epithet is never capitalized.
The two parts of a scientific name can be derived from several sources, of which Latin is only one. These include Latinized words derived from Ancient Greek, other languages, names of people and places, or even nonsense words.
The Dictionary of Succulent Plant Names includes both generic names and specific epithets, as well as infraspecific epithets (subspecific epithets, varietal epithets, and formal epithets) and cultivar epithets. Click on the word for which you wish to discover its meaning and origin, and find a guide to pronouncing it.
Click a letter to jump to words beginning with the chosen letter.