Latin names (was Re: HERB - Classes, was confession

Kathleen H. Keeler kkeeler1 at
Mon Oct 4 16:07:46 PDT 1999

Master Rauthulfr and everyone

 Datura Stramonium is it's full Latin
> Atropa Belladonna,

The scientific name consists of two parts, genus and species.  Genus is
always capitalized, species is not capitalized in modern usage.  Both words
go in italics--which I can't do on this email program--because they are
foreign (Latin) words in an English text.  Handwritten, they are underlined
to indicate italics.

[caveat:  species names based on a person's name used to be capitalized,
and some people still do it that way _Prunus Besseyii_, Bessey's plum.  But
that is not considered good usage at present.]

[I don't know if its authors, editors or publishers who are responsible for
so many misusages, but they sure make it hard to learn the right way to do

When people use the system correctly, the italics cues you to a scientific
name, lack of italics to a common name, so that if I write _Yucca_ you know
you can look it up in the Scientific Names index, but if I write aster, you
might want to be careful because although there is a genus _Aster_ a lot of
other genera get called "aster" as common names, when they are some other
genus of composite (_Erigeron_ is the one I can't tell from _Aster_).

I have an essay on common and scientific names online for my class within that I'm Arts and Sciences, BioSci
bios230/readings  ('The course is ecology of the great plains)
and you'll have to pick out the right reading 'cause I don't rememberquite
what I titled it (scientific names?). Sorry for the garbled reference-- I'm
in the field and can't readily check from here. If you are interested and
don't get there, say so -- I'll be back by early next week and can get the
full address.

kkeeler1 at

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