Fusion: Deakin Exhibits Online

The language of flora: plant names

Delve a little deeper and seed catalogues are a valuable resource for anyone with an interest in the language of flora for the particular time and place in which the catalogue was published or distributed. Common names of varieties of Australian or exotic flora can have more than one ‘correct’ common name that distinctly belongs to the vernacular of an area. Cross state lines in the past or the present and your nursery person may not know what it is you are asking for – unless you know the scientific name or have a sample for them to identify.

With so many varieties in existence plant identification is a skill few acquire.

To complicate plant identification, some scientific names, which are recognised the world over, have changed over time. Around one hundred trees with the genus of Corymbia and Angophora were once included in the Eucalyptus genus before they were reclassified in the 1990’s. The contention preceding this major re‐classification dates back to 1797 when the Spanish botanist Antonio Jose Cavanilles published the genus Angophora, for the first time. Advances in the taxonomy of plants have allowed these re‐classifications.


This image of the Spotted Gum, or Eucalyptus maculata, was published in 1897 by Edward Minchin. It was part of the large group of Eucalypts renamed in the 1990’s.

The scientific name for Spotted Gum is now Corymbia maculata.