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Wednesday - August 11, 2010

From: Arlington, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: General Botany
Title: What does spp. stand for in Paspalum spp? From Arlington, TX.
Answered by: Barbara Medford and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

What does the spp stand for when talking about Paspalum spp?

ANSWER:

A botanical name is a type of term known as a binomial.  That is, there are two parts to it, a genus name and a specific epithet.

The first word in the botanical name of a plant is the genus name, in this case, Paspalum. The second word is the specific epithet.  The second name is not called the species name since the name of the species is actually the genus and specific name in combination - the binomial.  Some genera have many species and even sub-species, some have only one. There are between 300 and 400 species of Paspalum worldwide, about 25 or so native to North America and there are 7 species listed in our Native Plant Database:

Paspalum distichum (knotgrass)

Paspalum floridanum (Florida paspalum)

Paspalum langei (rustyseed paspalum)

Paspalum monostachyum (gulfdune paspalum)

Paspalum notatum var. notatum (bahiagrass)

Paspalum plicatulum (brownseed paspalum)

Paspalum setaceum (thin paspalum)

The word in parentheses after the species name is one of the common names of that species and is not part of the species name.

The abbreviation, spp, is botanical shorthand for multiple species.  So, if you see "Paspalum spp." it means that the reference is for more than one Paspalum species.  A similar and likely more familiar shorthand is the abbreviation, p, for page and, pp, for pages.

You will notice that only the genus name, specific epithet and, if present, any sub-specific epithets in a botanical name are italicized.  Other parts of a scientific name such as, sp (species), spp (multiple species), var (botanical variety - should not be confused with cultivated variety or cultivar), ssp (subspecies). and authors' citations are never italicized.  An author's citation is a standardized abbreviation of the name of the person(s) who published the botanical name.  In proper scientific notation, authors' citations are always included in the scientific name.  In the interest of brevity and clarity, authors' citations are often omitted in informal writing.

 

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