Dr Ian Fordyce
for plants and animals, I strongly recommend the scientific names. Common names are
generally easier to remember, because they're usually in modern English and they're
often names that're already familiar to the writer. However, there's an over-riding
disadvantage; common names differ from place to place. A plant that everyone knows
as cottonbush on the Goldfields might be bloodbush in the southern wheatbelt, white
mulla mulla in the northern wheatbelt, and cottonbush again in the Gascoyne. To add to
the confusion, the name cottonbush refers to a different plant altogether in parts of the
northern wheatbelt, and a bloodbush, in pastoral parts of Central Australia and the
Goldfields, is a species of woody shrub that's unknown in most of the wheatbelt. In the
Dampier area, bloodbush is something else again.
Broad-brush names like bluebush, samphire, broombush or tea tree might refer to any of
there might be several species with the same common name. In the Kalannie area, for
example, the name bluebush is used for any succulent member of the genus Maireana,
but is often restricted to the small-leafed bluebush (Maireana brevifolia). Unrelated
plants, such as Enchylaena tomentosa, Sclerolaena diacantha and Didymanthus roei,
which superficially resemble Maireana brevifolia, are also called bluebush at times. On
the other hand, there are members of the Maireana genus which're recognised by some
residents as bluebush, but not by others. For some people and some species, this
recognition might be confined to a particular time of year, e.g. during flowering or fruiting,
or when a particular environmental condition is present, e.g. during waterlogging or
when the leaves turn bluish.
All this might be quite acceptable for a communication that's purely local, but there're
aren't sure what species you're dealing with. For example, say you've been planting the
broombush species Melaleuca hamata and Melaleuca atroviridis along a drainage line,
but have lost track of which seedlings were used for a particular patch. Rather than
simply guess the species, a better course would be to leave it as 'broombush'. If readers
need more detail, they'll just have to visit the field site and identify the plants themselves.
Scientific names usually have two words, e.g. Melaleuca lateriflora. The first (the genus
this's a small thing, it looks very, very amateurish and rings alarm bells with agency
people when species names are misspelt or capitalised.] Both words are Latinised, i.e.
they're not necessarily real Latin, and can be based on words from many languages,
including English, but they've been modified to conform to Latin grammatical rules, e.g.
Acacia victoriae, Acacia coolgardiensis.
Another convention is that both the genus and the species names should be written in
major job, it was acceptable to underline the name instead. You still come across this
version sometimes in type-written documents, but it's not very common. Once again,
ignoring the conventions altogether can make a report look amateurish, no matter how
professionally the actual content's been arranged. This highlights the need for careful