Botanical names are mostly standard (as long as they aren’t misspelled). We all learned about Carl Linneaus, the Swedish scientist who invented binomial nomenclature (Genus species), which was widely adopted after his publication of Species Plantarum in 1753.
Today, theplantlist.org is considered a definitive resource for botanical names and includes synonyms or “otherwise known as” names. It’s a great resource to consult when taxonomic changes sweep the horticulture industry.
But that brings us to organizing plant supply and recognizing plant demand:
Growers, retailers, landscape architects, landscape designers, brokers, wholesalers all use different names when selling and specifying plants. There is currently not a system of standardized plant names attached to UPCs (universal product codes), so it’s difficult to track true demand for a plant — patent protected or otherwise. (SKUs are individualized to the seller.)
It can also be difficult to source substitutions without standard names and UPCs.
Picture this: a buyer at a big box store without horticultural knowledge needs to reorder “New Guinea Impatiens.” What are they going to order? SUNPATIENS, Divine™ New Guinea impatiens, Clockwork™ New Guinea Impatiens, or something marked in a catalog as simply “New Guinea Impatiens” that might or might not be a protected variety.
How do we, as an industry, track volume and predict consumer demand without some kind of standard? How would we do it? Could a botanical name and/or a protected name be assigned a UPC? How would we ensure that when a taxonomic change happens, the industry-standard naming conventions adapt?
Bleeding hearts come to mind, in terms of a taxonomic change that hasn’t necessarily wholly filtered down to the retail level. There are still retailers selling Lamprocapnos spectabilis (the old fashioned bleeding heart or lady-in-the-bath) as Dicentra spectabilis (the old taxonomic classification). Is that because growers are offering the plant under that name? Because consumers are slow to adapt? If each color and/or cultivar of Lamprocapnos spectabilis had a UPC it would be easier to track availability across the marketplace and put the right product into the hands of retailers and customers.
When it comes to substitutions, UPCs can help too. Knowing that a designer specified a protected variety on purpose, and because of clearly defined attributes, rather than due to a naming mistake, will allow for more efficient order fulfillment. It’s easier to find substitutions when you can be sure that a certain plant was specified for a reason.
Without standard naming conventions, it’s also difficult to forecast upcoming plant shortages — and thus areas of opportunity — and to track increasing demand.
The next step in growing the green industry is not just surfacing the supply chain for greater transparency, but standardizing how that supply chain is managed, and we need to start by speaking the same language.
This is where LandscapeHub comes in. By collecting plant data and SKUs from across the country, we are able to start the process of standardizing plant names. Our platform maps supplier’s offerings to our nomenclature so there’s no confusion over what’s available and what’s not. We see it as a game-changer for the industry that ultimately saves time and reduces confusion and friction in the current process of searching for material. Curious how it works? Start a search on LandscapeHub and see for yourself.