Page:British Flowering Plants.djvu/35

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In order to distinguish one plant from another, and that they may easily be spoken of, and identified without any doubt or difficulty, the great Swedish botanist Linne, or Linnæus, who lived in the eighteenth century, improving on the work of his predecessors, established an arrangement by which every animal and plant (for he was a zoologist as well as a botanist) is known by two names—the Genus and the Species. These are thrown into a Latin form, and in most cases the generic name is derived from Greek and the specific name from Latin. These names are known and recognised all over the world; so that, no matter in what country we are, or what language is spoken there, every botanist will immediately know, if we speak of Quercus robur, that we mean one particular species of Oak-tree. Many English names of animals and plants have been applied to very different species in different parts of the country, or at different periods, or in different countries; while, even when this is not the case, popular names are frequently wrongly translated in the best dictionaries. Thus, to take an extreme instance, a robin in England means a small brown bird with a red breast; in America it means a much larger bird, which is really a kind of thrush.

But if the Latin names are used, no confusion is possible. The generic name is placed first (Quercus, for instance), and this is applied to all trees which possess a certain number of characters in common. Thus it corresponds to a surname, except in position. The specific name (robur) indicates one particular kind of Oak-tree, and corresponds (collectively) to a Christian name.

The genera are grouped together in larger