Variety (botany)

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The hierarchy of biological classification's eight major taxonomic ranks. Intermediate minor rankings are not shown. Biological classification L Pengo vflip.svg DomainKingdomClassOrderFamily
The hierarchy of biological classification's eight major taxonomic ranks. Intermediate minor rankings are not shown.

In botanical nomenclature, variety (abbreviated var.; in Latin : varietas) is a taxonomic rank below that of species and subspecies, but above that of form. [1] As such, it gets a three-part infraspecific name. It is sometimes recommended that the subspecies rank should be used to recognize geographic distinctiveness, whereas the variety rank is appropriate if the taxon is seen throughout the geographic range of the species. [2]



The pincushion cactus, Escobaria vivipara (Nutt.) Buxb., is a wide-ranging variable species occurring from Canada to Mexico, and found throughout New Mexico below about 2,600 metres (8,500 ft). Nine varieties have been described. Where the varieties of the pincushion cactus meet, they intergrade. The variety Escobaria vivipara var. arizonica is from Arizona, while Escobaria vivipara var. neo-mexicana is from New Mexico.

See also Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum


The term is defined in different ways by different authors. [3] However, the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants, while recognizing that the word "variety" is often used to denote "cultivar", does not accept this usage. Variety is defined in the code as follows: "Variety (varietas) the category in the botanical nomenclatural hierarchy between species and form (forma)". The code acknowledges the other usage as follows: "term used in some national and international legislation for a clearly distinguishable taxon below the rank of species; generally, in legislative texts, a term equivalent to cultivar. See also: cultivar and variety (varietas)". [4]

A variety will have an appearance distinct from other varieties, but will hybridize freely with those other varieties (if brought into contact). [5]

Other nomenclature uses

See also

Related Research Articles

Cultivar Plant or grouping of plants selected for desirable characteristics

A cultivar is a type of plant that people have bred for desired traits, which are reproduced in each new generation by a method such as grafting, tissue culture or carefully controlled seed production. Most cultivars arise from purposeful human manipulation, but some originate from wild plants that have distinctive characteristics. Cultivar names are chosen according to rules of the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP), and not all cultivated plants qualify as cultivars. Horticulturists generally believe the word cultivar was coined as a term which means "cultivated variety".

Subspecies Taxonomic rank subordinate to species

In biological classification, the term subspecies refers to one of two or more populations of a species living in different subdivisions of the species' range and varying from one another by morphological characteristics. A single subspecies cannot be recognized independently: a species is either recognized as having no subspecies at all or at least two, including any that are extinct. The term may be abbreviated to subsp. or ssp. The plural is the same as the singular: subspecies.

In biology, trinomial nomenclature refers to names for taxa below the rank of species. These names have three parts. The usage is different in zoology and botany.

A subvariety in botanical nomenclature is a taxonomic rank. They are rarely used to classify organisms.

Form (botany) One of the secondary taxonomic ranks, below that of variety, in botanical nomenclature

In botanical nomenclature, a form is one of the "secondary" taxonomic ranks, below that of variety, which in turn is below that of species; it is an infraspecific taxon. If more than three ranks are listed in describing a taxon, the "classification" is being specified, but only three parts make up the "name" of the taxon: a genus name, a specific epithet, and an infraspecific epithet.

In botany and plant taxonomy, a series is a subdivision of a genus, a taxonomic rank below that of section but above that of species.

Botanical name Scientific name for a plant, alga or fungus

A botanical name is a formal scientific name conforming to the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN) and, if it concerns a plant cultigen, the additional cultivar or Group epithets must conform to the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP). The code of nomenclature covers "all organisms traditionally treated as algae, fungi, or plants, whether fossil or non-fossil, including blue-green algae (Cyanobacteria), chytrids, oomycetes, slime moulds and photosynthetic protists with their taxonomically related non-photosynthetic groups ."

Race (biology) Informal rank in the taxonomic hierarchy, below the level of subspecies

In biological taxonomy, race is an informal rank in the taxonomic hierarchy for which various definitions exist. Sometimes it is used to denote a level below that of subspecies, while at other times it is used as a synonym for subspecies. It has been used as a higher rank than strain, with several strains making up one race. Races may be genetically distinct populations of individuals within the same species, or they may be defined in other ways, e.g. geographically, or physiologically. Genetic isolation between races is not complete, but genetic differences may have accumulated that are not (yet) sufficient to separate species.

In botany, an infraspecific name is the scientific name for any taxon below the rank of species, i.e. an infraspecific taxon. The scientific names of botanical taxa are regulated by the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN). This specifies a 'three part name' for infraspecific taxa, plus a 'connecting term' to indicate the rank of the name. An example of such a name is Astrophytum myriostigma subvar. glabrum, the name of a subvariety of the species Astrophytum myriostigma.

The International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP), also known as the Cultivated Plant Code, is a guide to the rules and regulations for naming cultigens, plants whose origin or selection is primarily due to intentional human activity. Cultigens under the purview of the ICNCP include cultivars, Groups, and grexes. All organisms traditionally considered to be plants are included. Taxa that receive a name under the ICNCP will also be included within taxa named under the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants, for example, a cultivar is a member of a species.

A Group is a formal category in the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP) used for cultivated plants (cultivars) that share a defined characteristic. It is represented in a botanical name by the symbol Group or Gp. "Group" or "Gp" is always written with a capital G in a botanical name, or epithet. The Group is not italicized in a plant's name. The ICNCP introduced the term and symbol "Group" in 2004, as a replacement for the lengthy and hyphenated "cultivar-group", which had previously been the category's name since 1969. For the old name "cultivar-group", the non-standard abbreviation cv. group or cv. Group is also sometimes encountered. There is a slight difference in meaning, since a cultivar-group was defined to comprise cultivars, whereas a Group may include individual plants.

In botanical nomenclature, author citation is the way of citing the person or group of people who validly published a botanical name, i.e. who first published the name while fulfilling the formal requirements as specified by the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN). In cases where a species is no longer in its original generic placement, both the authority for the original genus placement and that for the new combination are given.

In zoology, the word "form" or forma is a strictly informal term that is sometimes used to describe organisms. Under the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature the term has no standing. In other words, although form names are Latin, and are sometimes wrongly appended to a binomial name, in a zoological context, forms have no taxonomic significance at all.

A cultigen or cultivated plant is a plant that has been deliberately altered or selected by humans; it is the result of artificial selection. These plants, for the most part, have commercial value in horticulture, agriculture or forestry. Because cultigens are defined by their mode of origin and not by where they are growing, plants meeting this definition remain cultigens whether they are naturalised in the wild, deliberately planted in the wild, or growing in cultivation.

Taxonomic rank Level in a taxonomic hierarchy

In biological classification, taxonomic rank is the relative level of a group of organisms in a taxonomic hierarchy. Examples of taxonomic ranks are species, genus, family, order, class, phylum, kingdom, domain, etc.

<i>Escobaria vivipara</i> Species of cactus

Escobaria vivipara is a species of cactus known by several common names, including spinystar, viviparous foxtail cactus, pincushion cactus and ball cactus. It is native to North America, where certain varieties can be found from Mexico to Canada. Most of these varieties are limited to the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts.

Cultivated plant taxonomy

Cultivated plant taxonomy is the study of the theory and practice of the science that identifies, describes, classifies, and names cultigens—those plants whose origin or selection is primarily due to intentional human activity. Cultivated plant taxonomists do, however, work with all kinds of plants in cultivation.

Grex (horticulture) hybrids of orchids

The term grex, derived from the Latin noun grex, gregis, meaning 'flock', has been expanded in botanical nomenclature to describe hybrids of orchids, based solely on their parentage. Grex names are one of the three categories of plant names governed by the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants; within a grex the cultivar group category can be used to refer to plants by their shared characteristics, and individual orchid plants can be selected and named as cultivars.

Plant variety may refer to

This is a list of terms and symbols used in scientific names for organisms, and in describing the names. For proper parts of the names themselves, see List of Latin and Greek words commonly used in systematic names. Note that many of the abbreviations are used with or without a stop.


  1. "Article 4". International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants. 2012. 4.1. If a greater number of ranks of taxa is desired, [...a]n organism may thus be assigned to taxa of the following ranks (in descending sequence): [... genus, ... species, subspecies,] variety (varietas), subvariety (subvarietas), form (forma), and subform (subforma). ... 4.3. Further ranks may also be intercalated or added, provided that confusion or error is not thereby introduced.
  2. "Varieties and forms", HORTAX: Cultivated Plant Taxonomy Group, retrieved 19 July 2016
  3. Robert T. Clausen (1941). "On The Use Of The Terms "Subspecies" And "Variety"". Rhodora. 43 (509): 157–167.
  4. Brickell et al 2016.
  5. Salm et al 2015.