“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.


Love sansevieria leaves

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

Thaumatophyllum leaf

Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum, formerly Philodendron bipinnatifidum

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.

Tillandsia lindenii now Wallisia lindenii

Tillandsia cyanea which is now Wallisia cyanea

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!

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