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Hello, please can anyone tell me where I can find a sort of glossary for idiots. I keep seeing terms like genus, species, cultivar, etc, etc, and don't know what they mean. I read lots of gardening magazines, books and web pages but have never found an explanation I can understand.Thank you.

I don't know if there is a glossary for idiots but the system is just a sort of hierarchy that helps people to make some sort of sense of what looks like chaos.

If you think of a set of Russian dolls, plants can be classfied into smaller and smaller groups which each fit within each other.

Generally, gardening books only use the genus,the species and the cultivar names.

The Genus is a big group. All plants within that group share certain characteristics. Within the genus Rosa you can find both roses, apples and hawthorns. When you think about a rose hip, a crab apple and a hawthorn berry you can see a similarity. The same with a dog rose flower, apple blossom and may blossom.

The Species is a smaller group within the Genus, which allows people to see the differences between things within the Genus. So Hawthorn is the Crategeus species within the Rosa genus whereas the Apple is the Malus species within the Rosa genus.You can see similarities between an apple blossom and a dog rose and a hawthorn  blossom but they are clearly different. The species name shows the difference but  the genus shows the similarity.

The Subspecies, Variety or Cultivar are smaller divisions within the species. Subspecies are natural, variety and cultivar are man-made differences.


Superb explanation waterbutts! Thank you. I will also have a look at the link nutcutlet, thanks for that too.


Rosaceae the family

Rosa or Crataegeus, the genus 

Crataegeus monogyna the species, hawthorn

is that too pedantic sorry



Sorry to say this, but the glossary isn't great for understanding the classifications but no matter, I'm more than happy with waterbutts's explanation. I just didn't want other people clicking on the link in the hope of finding out more.


For me, the fuller the explanation the better. Examples really help with understanding, which you don't seem to get with glossaries. I've pasted it all into a Word document so that when I'm reading about plants and find these terms I know what they're talking about.

think I've strayed into a recording of university challenge...? Wow waterbutts, I'm a bit overwhelmed..... lol

Perfectly clear nut. Taxonomy is pedantic. And when you live too long they change the  name of a thing and the new name never sinks in. Montbretia for me, I'm afraid, will never be Crocosmia.


and Buddleia will never have a 'j ' in it

Quite so, says Mr Buddle.

well done Nut straight into my favs for the future Nice one

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