Is there an official site to look up the scientific names of plants?
I looked up oregano on the Internet and got as many different opinions as
sites I visited.
I wanted to establish the scientific name for the culinary variety (which I
believe might be the "Greek Oregano").
Got official sounding instructions but they do not agree with each other.
That's a database of names that have been used. It doesn't tell you what
is the current opinion on the bounds and name of a species.
I believe that you have the problem that there is more than one culinary
Also try the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture's <http://plants.usda.gov/ .
One problem is that distinguishing species is not always easy. Often,
the distinction relies on subtle differences in tiny flower parts.
Also, international botanical organizations tend to reclassify plants
quite often (moving a species to a different genus or even to a
different family), thus rendering even recent publications obsolete.
However, this never results in an existing botanical name being reused
for a different plant. Lately, reclassification has become more intense
as the relationships between species are determined by DNA analysis
instead of physical structures.
That's probably the best place to start, in general. It mostly just
covers plants which are found in the U.S. (native, introduced, or in
Dave's Garden's plant files at http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/ are
Sometimes there will be issues such as the horticulturalists using one
name (often an older one) and the scientists using another.
Even something like whether the cultivated plants are all from the
same species, or from several different species, may require research
(there are a number of species of thyme which are cultivated, for
I'm not sure there is just one species which is in culinary use
(varieties, being subdivisions of species, would complicate matters
further). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregano mentions at least
three (which are said to have similar flavors). Greek Oregano, at
least according to http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SAFR10
is in the genus Salvia (better known for a number of ornamental
flowers and also Salvia officinalis, the well-known culinary herb).
It isn't clear to me what Greek Oregano tastes like and whether much
of anyone uses it for culinary purposes.
It can be hard to get to the bottom of this kind of thing. For
example, there's the whole "cinnamon" vs "Cassia" issue (with the more
expensive one having the more highly prized flavor, and the
terminology in the marketplace being rather confused/inconsistent,
perhaps because a lot of customers won't know the difference or won't
That page does not list Westringia species.
<http://www.ipni.org/index.html lists several Westringia species.
Why would I be interested in Westringia? Several W. fruticosa were just
planted at the top of the slope in my back yard.
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
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