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BOT 130 - Plants in the Hawaiian Environment: Home

On Learning Plant Names

About this Guide

In this guide, we've collected resources you can use to find information about native, endemic and indigenous species of plants in the Hawaiian Islands.

It's All in the Name(s)

Names are cruicial to finding information about plants. Each kind of plant may have many names:

  • a scientific name, comprised of the genus and species name, and

  • one or more common names (here, that can include Hawaiian & English names).

To further complicate things, a name may have been spelled differently at different times.

(For a nice discussion on the topic, check out this Plant Names page.)

There's one more name to know: the family name.

As you do your research, list all the names that refer to the plant that you find, plus its family, and variant spellings.

Why? Because when searching for information on a plant, if you don't search on all of its names, you might miss finding everything you could.

Some books, databases, and other resources you might consult may be organized by family, or by genus. They may have an index listing scientific names, and another index with common names, or an index that lists all of them together.

Sometimes,  you may not find information about your particular species in an information resource, but you might find information about its genus - this can still be useful, as all plants in a given genus share common charactaristics.

When searching for your plant in a database on the Web, try these tips:

  • Put quotation marks around the scientific name - this ensures you find items with both words together in exact order.

  • To ensures you find all the items about your plant, regardless of which name is used, string all the names together with an OR in between each, like this:

"Ranunculus hawaiensis" OR makou OR "awa kanaloa" OR buttercup

  • Leave off the diacritics - most databases ignore them at best, and get confused by them at worst.

Subject Guide

Tara Severns
Contact:
808-235-7440
Content: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 Windward Community College Library