Well, we’re glad you asked. To some there is a huge difference, and to others not so much. In order to start the conversation out right, let’s get a little scientific and throw in a splash of common sense from time to time. Go make some popcorn, grab some drinks, and get ready to sink in to some deep and exciting conversation in this three part series.
Remember those Biology courses you took back in high school and college, the ones you probably didn’t pay much attention in. Well, there were a couple of weeks somewhere in there were the curriculum was about the plant kingdom and you probably saw some cool movies or looked through the microscope at some plant material. If you ended up getting an “F” during that section, don’t worry because we got straight “A’s” and can’t get this info out of our minds if we tried, and believe us we have tried.
Over the centuries, Biologist and the like have researched and cataloged the Plant Kingdom and broken their findings down into a plant classification system or division for every living plant we know of on this earth, referred to as Taxonomy, where we simply use both common English and Latin. All botanical plants have two parts of the names in Latin, one for the genus and one for the species. For an example, since we are talking about Lavenders today, the Latin name would be Lavandula angustifolia. Sometimes you will see a mix of both Latin and English, such as Lavandula angustifolia ‘Provence’. That third name is the variety or cultivar. There is a difference between variety and cultivar and we will get into that more in Part II of the series.
Below is the Plant Kingdom more or less in all its glory, or at least showing you the movement from the largest to the smallest, or more identifiable plant for the average joe.
KINGDOM -> SUBKINGDOM -> SUPERDIVISION -> DIVISION -> CLASS -> SUBCLASS -> ORDER -> FAMILY -> GENUS -> SPECIES -> VARIETY or CULTIVAR
Pretty much all of the Taxonomy of plants are flowering herbs…somewhere in the neighborhood of 230,000 or so from what we recall. As you start to move through on down the line and get more specific as seen above, you start to come to where it all makes sense for this plant that we grow on our farms here in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley.
We’ll start the conversation about half way down in the flow chart we show above ans start with Family. The Family we are speaking about is “Lamiaceae/Labiatae” in Latin, which is know in common English as the “Mint Family” of plants and herbs. As you look to refine even further down the line, the Genus becomes all things “Lavandula”…or just simply Lavender. With the Genus being Lavender, in truth anything that is further refined down is still technically a Lavender. The devil in the details, however, for Joe Q. Public, Green Thumbs, Scientists, and those disciplined and educated lavender farmers will focus on the species. There are many Synonyms out there, but what is most commonly identified as the way to refer to the four spieces that most gardens her in our Sequim-Dungeness Valley feature are as follows.
Depending on what part of the world you are in, there is some variation of the common English names of these species and it can make for a very confusing discussion, but for the purposes of this post, we will keep it simple to what it is the order of what you are most likely to see at our farm and other farms around the United States.
- Lavandula angustifolia
- Lavandula x intermedia
- Lavandula latifolia
- Lavandula stoechas