why mediterranean in lower case? 

Common pitfalls
ALL vowels (or two-vowel dipthongs) are pronounced separately, including trailing 'e' (e.g. ker-ri-o-i-des or hi-ma-la-yen-se)
Latin long ā does not sound like the same in English (e.g. cake or say)
Latin c is always hard (e.g. cat), never soft (e.g. cinder)
Latin long ē does not sound like the same in English (e.g. because or depart)
Latin g is always hard (e.g. get), never soft (e.g. gypsy)
Latin long ī does not sound like the same in English (e.g. bike or kite)
Latin ph is separated to the adjacent syllables (e.g. Pa-chyp-hy-tum) and never pronounced as 'f' like in English (e.g. Stephen)
Latin r is always rolled
Latin vowel y does not sound like the same in English (e.g. cycle)

Our Suggested

Latin Pronunciation

We have thought long and hard about this.  It is daunting enough to deal with these unfamiliar words, let alone try and speak them!  We have found several well-meaning web pages with long lists of plant names and matter-of-fact ways to say them.  Don't be fooled!!  Most of these merely perpetuate improper pronunciation (not based on the rules of classical Latin).  Some are clearly based on liturgical Latin (the Latin used in churches over time and consequently having its own evolution during that period).  Many are simply based on how a particular expert tends to say them, influenced heavily by English (or other language) pronunciation rules.  We've even found some clearly influenced by local dialects and accents!

Faced with this confusing array of choices, we decided we needed some sort of more authoritative resource to determine proper pronunciation of binomial names.  We found this in the 'reformed' or 'restored' Latin used by Classical Scholars (scientific binomial nomenclature is based upon Classical Latin).  This is supported by important botanical experts in this area (such as author William Stearn).

We've based our pronunciation suggestions (under each scientific name) using this method, the etymology of the words, and our best guesses when no examples were available.  If you have an opinion regarding how we've adopted this to our use, you can let us know.

Meanwhile, here are two 'rules' we've seen oft repeated that you should keep in mind when pronouncing unfamiliar scientific names:

Listen to others and practice what sounds good to your ear
— conviction is important
When someone presumes to correct your pronunciation,
a knowing smile is an appropriate response
Seán A. O'Hara

Latin pronunciation guidelines followed on this site

Based on William T Stearn's Botanical Latin, 2004.

long ā as in father

short ă as in apart

diphthong æ as ai in aisle

diphthong au as ou in house

c is always hard as in cat

ch (of Greek) as k or k…h

long ē as in they

short ĕ as in pet

diphthong ei as in rein

g always hard as in go

long ī as in machine

short ĭ as in pit

consonant i/j as y in yellow

ng as in finger

long ō as in note

short ŏ as in not

diphthong œ as oi in toil

ph as p or p…h (never as f)

r is always trilled or rolled

long ū as in brute

short ŭ as in full

v (consonant u) as w

diphthong ui as oui (French)

long y as u in pur (French)

short y as u in du (French)

stress 3rd to last syllable (default)

if 2nd to last syllable contains a long vowel: stress

if 2nd to last syllable contains a diphthong: stress

if 2 syllables: stress the first

diphthong eu as short ĕ + long ū together

pronounce trailing vowels (not silent)

All vowels, other than diphthongs, are pronounced individually


National Museums Northern Ireland. Basic Principles of Classification and Naming of Cultivated Plants. Website http://www.habitas.org.uk/gardenflora/taxa.htm [accessed 12 April 2010].

Floridata.com. Whats in a (Plant) Name?. Website http://www.floridata.com/tracks/misc/plant_names.cfm [accessed 12 April 2010].

Wikipedia. Species (in biology). Website http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Species [accessed 12 April 2010].

Wikipedia. Binomial Nomenclature. Website http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binomial_nomenclature [accessed 12 April 2010].

Michael L. Charters. California Plant Names: Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations. Website http://www.calflora.net/botanicalnames/pronunciation.html [accessed 28 February 2013].