Introduction to Flora Fact Sheet

How to Use a Flora Fact Sheet   

General aims and suggestions for classroom use

This one-page fact sheet leads students through the parts of a species entry in a flora or field guide, and it mentions how these two plant identification aids differ. The featured plant in this fact sheet is Uvularia sessilifolia, a common wildflower of eastern North America. Uvularia, a member of the lily family (Liliaceae), is a genus of five species endemic to North America. The genus is treated in Flora of North America volume 26, pages 147-150.

The aim of the fact sheet is to break down student barriers to unfamiliar scientific material, while reinforcing the importance of binomial nomenclature. Students often find Latin binomials intimidating. Understanding the meaning of scientific names and hearing binomials pronounced frequently help to overcome student fears.

Uvularia sessilifolia provides a fine example to highlight (1) the history of binomial nomenclature, (2) the potential confusion surrounding common names, and (3) the value of learning binomials. Linnaeus named Uvularia sessilifolia in the first publication to use binomial nomenclature throughout - Species Plantarum (abbreviated Sp. Pl.). One of the four common names for Uvularia sessilifolia, wild-oats, is wildly misleading, as oats belong to the grass family (Poaceae). The Latin derivation of the genus describes characteristics of the flowers, and the species epithet describes the leaves. Species epithets often describe a plant's morphology, but they may also describe a plant's ecology or geography, or honor a person important to the study of the plant.

This fact sheet would be useful during an introductory lecture on binomial nomenclature as an example of how the general public encounters scientific names (enthusiastic gardeners also rely on scientific names). Many textbooks include activities that require students to refer to a field guide, and this fact sheet would be a helpful handout for such assignments.

Here are two ideas of incorporating student activities with this fact sheet.

Links to more facts and fun
Botanical Pronunciations, References, and Images - links to audio clips and much more.

Chuck Griffith’s Dictionary of Botanical Epithets

The Plants Database - a searchable botanical dictionary compiled by gardeners.

A Select List of Pronunciations

Linné on line - a site devoted to information about the father of binomial nomenclature and classification.