It Bothers Me When Houseplant Names Change. Does It Bother You?

by | Aug 25, 2021 | 4 comments

There is a lot of brouhaha about plants and their names changing. I get it. It bothers me, too. I wrote about a few of the changes here. I was thinking about it the other day and I know many people are “angry” about the seemingly constant changes. This made me think about people in the past. Were they angry about Zygocactus changing to Schlumbergera? Is that why we still see plant tags that say Zygocactus? That makes me slightly angry. Someday, the people that still see sansevieria tags will be mad! Right? 

Newer changes

The newest change I just discovered (and it blew my mind), was African violet or Saintpaulia ionantha which is now Streptocarpus ionantha var. saintpaulia. Isn’t that crazy? It was named for Baron Saint Paul-Illaire so how must he feel? (If he were alive, of course.) 

African violet

Saintpaulia now Streptocarpus ionantha var. Saintpaulia


Many Chiritas became Primulina, but some also became Henckelia and Microchirita. I’m not sure about all the different varieties and which genus they were moved to, but just know chiritas are no more. 


Primulina formerly chirita



Did you know most Calatheas are now called Goeppertia which was its original name (so I read) from 1831. So maybe since that was its original name they went back to that name? That is one of the reasons that plants are renamed, other than the DNA that is now being used to change plants into a different genus. If it is found a plant was named something different earlier in history, it can be changed back to the original name. So weird. 


Calathea is now Goeppertia


I opened a 1977 houseplant book not too long ago and saw pothos, Epipremnum aurea used to be a Rhaphidophora aurea and before that, it was Scindapsus aurea. So really names have always changed, but it does seem like it happens more often now. Which makes sense since it is done by comparing the DNA of the plant to other plants which is something that wasn’t available before.

Epipremnum aureum

Epipremnum aurea used to be Rhaphidophora aurea

Stapelia now Orbea

So far, I think the only stapelia that has changed is the Stapelia variegata, but I may be wrong. Now it is Orbea variegata.  If you know, let me know. 


Orbea variegata

Holiday cactus

This one has gone through many changes over the years starting with Epiphyllum, changing to Zygocactus, Rhipsalidopsis, and now Schlumbergera named for Frederic Schlumbergera. So we are back to what got me thinking about this subject in the first place. Finding a tag in my junk drawer with Zygocactus on it that came in purchased cacti not so long ago and I wondered if the people that still print these are like we Sansevieria people? It will never be Dracaena, right? 

Thanksgiving cactus

Thanksgiving cactus, Schlumbergera

This post was just me thinking about the name changes of plants and how annoying they are. My books have names that aren’t correct anymore and they were written in the last 5 years. Time for an update? Probably not. The names may get changed again.

What do you think about the plant name changes? Do you hate it? Are you blase about it? Can’t fight science? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.

Hope you have a great week, plant friends!


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  1. Lynn Krawczyk

    I’m so-so about the name changes. Some of them bug me and others don’t bother me much.

    It’s kind of one of those things that is gonna happen whether you want it to or not.

    I admit, though, that the change for African Violet weirds me out a little bit! It’s been such a consistent piece of knowledge my whole life so that change will take some getting used to.

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Lynn, I know it is inevitable, but I still think it is crazy, especially, when they are named for people. And yes, it is going to happen whether we like it or not. Now that is done with DNA information, they shouldn’t change anymore, right? Lisa

  2. Judith

    Hi Lisa,

    Just saw this wonderful post. I am researching Shea Butter and found out that the tree, from which shea nuts originate had recently had a name change. It didn’t bother me because so many other plants are going through this.

    In the case of the tree, it was named after the British explorer who brought it to the attention of the European colonialists. The fruit of the shea tree has now been found to have pre Egyptian origins, and I think to name it after someone who was led to the plant by a native person who probably explained how it was used by the local people negates their history and knowledge.

    One of the reasons I have heard for the changes was also that the classifications were sometimes not based on much evidence of relationships to the genus they were classified in, and that is what the new technologies are now clearing up.

    The same probably goes for the African violet. Imagine going to another country visiting their natural garden, seeing a flower and giving it your name thus erasing the local relationship with the plant when transferred abroad.

    I do prefer the science which helps you understand the relationships better and hopefully will improve the care we take care of plants.

    Thanks for asking the question.

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Judith,
      Thank you for your insight. I hadn’t looked at it that way. I just wish they would get them in the right family and leave them there. lol


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