“They say a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But would we want to call a rose by any other name? Not really. It is so frustrating when plant names are changed, and hard to keep up with the changes. Did you know the Sansevieria trifasciata is now called Dracaena trifasciata? I guess we aren’t really worried about the sansevieria smelling different (they do smell good when they bloom) but the question is will I ever be able to call sansevieria by its new name? It is going to be hard.
Why are names changed?
There are a couple of reasons why plant names are changed. First, the oldest name in print is the name that takes precedence. If a printed document is found with a different name for a plant and is an older document than the one that has the current name, it is changed. A second reason is that it was misidentified from the beginning. The mistake is discovered and rectified. The third reason is the plant is reclassified. When taxonomists first gave names to plants, they put plants together by their “looks”, their flower parts that looked like other plants’ flowers, and so on. Now, taxonomists are testing plants through DNA sequencing. The nomenclature of plants was developed in the 18th century by Swedish botanist Linneaus. He worked with what he had at that time. Things are different now, obviously. Hopefully, we won’t have to worry about name changes anymore when all the DNA testing is done.
Other plants whose names have changed
Another very familiar plant is the split-leaf philodendron or Philodendron bipinnatifidum (syn. selloum), which is now Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum . If you want to delve deeper into this plant, in particular, you can read this article.
I was at the Bromeliad Society on Sunday and found out that many bromeliads have changed names. One that is more familiar is the pink quill or Tillandsia lindenii which looks almost exactly like Tillandsia cyanea. Both have now been changed to the genus Wallisia, in honor of Wally Berg, a bromeliad specialist from Florida.
Can I call it a dracaena?
So, I guess I have to get on board with the name changes, but I’ll admit, I don’t want to. The snake plant will always be sansevieria to me. And split-leaf philodendron….split-leaf thaumatophyllum..? I guess so. It is a pretty cool name.
What are your thoughts on this? It may not be what we want, but we can’t fight science, can we?
Have a great week, plant friends!
No I will never stray from Sansevieria. It is much too fun to say.
It will still be sansevieria to me .
Me, too. I wish they could leave things alone…
Wouldn’t one typically list a plant thusly: Dracaena (syn. Sansevieria) trifasciata? I see this often with orchids, which seem to shift genera frequently (and even species once in a while). I don’t know if this is the proper form, but if so, you’d have the fun of six syllables with three more thrown in.
Yes, that would be the correct way to list it.
Sansevieria changed named? Don’t take it out its family. You can they are my favorite houseplants.
Someday, you maybe another generation will warm up to the new New but for now. You it is what is has been, and Sansevieria
yes … yes we can fight science…. PLUTO IS STILL A PLANET!!!!
I guess DNA doesn’t lie!
Yes it is! We can use sansevieria as a common name from now on.
I don’t think anyone is going to think it’s actually a draceana, since it doesn’t even look like one. I know I’ll stick with Sansevieria, even if it’s not correct.
I have a sansieveria that someone gave my mom (62 years ago) and have such a battle the last few years keeping it alive. I had 3 pots of it, some leaves 5′ tall. 2 burst their pots. Then the start dropping over when I moved 4 years ago. I’ve read if the leaves wrinkle. it needs water. But in the same pot I’ll have wrinkled, arched leaves and leaves that are dead from mushy roots and leaves that are doing beautifully. I’m down to 1 pot now and getting upset. Every tip and trick to pot them had been done faithfully. They’re in growing medium in a bright west window like when they grew so well. I rarely see new growth (just repotted a year ago). The get 2 feet high and bow over from the middle to the point I have to remove them. I’ve read all I can find and asked local botanist who all shrug and give me the usual potting/ care info. I love this plant but am upset about watching it struggle for so long. I feel guilty :/
Sorry I am so late in answering this. First, can you send me a picture? Okay. You moved…is there something outside blocking the light a bit? Tree, overhang, awning? You repotted…what kind of potting medium did you use? Maybe it is well-drained enough. Do you water all the way around the pot when you water? Not just in one spot…that would explain some mushy plants and some fine plants in the same pot. Did you pot them too deep? Drainage hole?
At 62 yrs it could just be old age.Also if you use tap water try rainwater instead. If bits are mushy I’d definitely leave it longer between watering. I water mine only when there is a sunny day and I do it in the morning so it has time to drain well and dry out a bit before night time.
When everyone’s “Sans” plant labels crumble and the majority of us above some age pass on, I guess the name change will have “morphed” into reality.
You are probably right. lol
Personally… I don’t mind the change. I actually thought it was cool when overnight, my Dracaena collection doubled. I think it’s kind of a promotion for a snake to now be flying with the dragons. Like a horse becoming a unicorn.
Now I’m no scientist but also, snake plants and dragon trees are technically in the same family anyway; the asparagaceae family, which includes Agave and the Spider Plant. And while yes individually the foliage doesn’t look the same, if you look at those four specific genus as a whole, they all have the strappy foliage that grow in rosettes. I would even argue that the stripped and margined patterns of some of the Dracaena Fragrans cultivars reminds me of the margined patterns of the Laurentii and some of the Hahnii cultivars.
But that’s my opinion. At the end of the day… snakes or dragons, they’re all reptiles to me haha
Good points all! They are all in the same family. I just like the name sansevieria and though I do love dracaenas, the name change is just weird to me. I know, I need to get out of the dark ages! lol
But I can pronounce Dracaena and philodendron. But the new name for the philodendron tree. I will never be able to pronounce LOL
Now well I Call it?
Thaumatophyllym is a mouthful. Lol
I really feel that it’s insulting to ditch the person it was named for, which was the Prince of Sansevero at the time, if memory serves. Why not just say Dracaena Sansevero Trifasciata, or some such. I know it’s against the naming rules to have extra names, but if rules were never broken, we’d all still be living in caves… A new naming convention to honour older names? Shortened then to Dracaena S. Trifasciata? I don’t know, but it seems a pity that the first classifier or discoverer (for science) loses their intent to honour whomever-it-may-be with the naming, just because someone runs the DNA. I know that precision is required in botany and many other disciplines, but it seems so rude to me, like when they take up the peat bog burials and run the tests, but then don’t put them back – it’s just not couth.
I definitely agree! If they have been named after a person that discovered them, I think they should somehow keep that name. Changing plant names is certainly frustrating, to say the least. Thanks for your comment and insight.