The great Swedish naturalist Linnaeus (1707-1778) methodically classified the whole living world by establishing the dual naming system. This is known as the binomial system. Two names are given to each plant: the first, which can be likened to a surname, is the generic (genus) or group name. The second is the specific name (species) which is like a first name. These scientific names given to plants are in Latin - the international language of science- so the names can be used equally well in all languages. Many plant names are also derived from Greek words like 'akakia' but have Latinised endings.
So when a Mexican horticulturalist talks about an Acacia collinsii, an Egyptian archaeologist about his piece of Acacia nilotica timber, an East African park ranger about the spines of Acacia karroo, and an Australian LandCare farmer about Acacia longifolia, they are all speaking the same language. The language of scientific accuracy.
Philip Miller from England in 1754 was the first to name, describe and classify the genus Acacia, using Linnaeus' new system. Neither Linnaeus nor Miller used Australian plants. Botanists today who are studying acacias are debating if Acacia is the right name for most of the Australian Wattles. Because acacias from elsewhere in the world were the first ones to be classified, botanists may have to find a new genus name for most of Australia's Acacia species. And that name may be 'Racosperma'. Watch out Wattle World!
Wattle you know wattle you do?
- What is a botanist? Write a letter or email to a Botanic Garden to find out more. Press some wattle between two phone books and start your own herbarium collection and record where you found them.
- More about Linnaeus the Big Botanist: www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/history/linnaeus.html
- More about classifying plants: www.fi.edu/tfi/units/life/classify/classify.html
- More about plant taxonomy: www.glenroseffa.org/bjHortUnit2.ppt