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Unfortunately, Oratia Native Plant Nursery has now closed down. For further information, click here.

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Serendipitous supply
When the Monarch Butterfly NZ Trust wanted to give a gift of plants, locally sourced from Rarangi Beach, east of Blenheim, they came to Oratia. Not only could we provide an eco-sourced species, it was also a plant which had since disappeared from the region!

This is the Trust's story.

» Click here for details
Nomenclature - naming plants

Plant names are confusing. Whether you prefer to use botanical names, common English names or Maori names it can be confusing knowing exactly what plant is being referred to.

We choose to use the binomial botanical classification system developed by Carl Linnaeus (1707 - 1778).

Improved classification and additional knowledge means even the botanical names are constantly changing. This is good, as each change means we are nearer to the true relationships between plants.
Currently there is debate as to whether Hebe should be called Veronica. Time will sort out which is the generally accepted name.


Common names often refer to more than one plant, eg.

  • puka can refer to Meryta sinclairii or Griselinia lucida,
  • mingi mingi can refer to Cyathodes juniperina, Leucopogon fasciculatus, Coprosma propinqua, Muehlenbeckia complexa and a multitude of small-leafed twiggy divaricating shrubs!

Using the scientific name avoids confusion because it is based on an international system in which every single plant in the world is given a unique name.

Some plants are found naturally in many countries.  No matter what country you are in, the botanical name of the plant will be the same.


Plants have traditionally been classified according to the structure of their flowers using the Linnaean system developed in 1753 by Carl von Linné (Linnaeus).

Today scientists are able to confirm these classifications using chromosome counts, pollen structure, plant chemistry and DNA.

New research has sometimes led scientists to reclassify plants, eg. cabbage trees (Cordyline species) used to be considered members of the lily family, but have now been given a family of their own (Asphodelaceae).

Leucopogon fasciculatus used to be called Cyathodes fasciculata until new research forced scientists to reassess its classification.


Plants are divided into groups according to:
Varieties, cultivars and hybrids.  

Families give a very broad classification rather like ‘European/Asian/African’ for humans.

Genera (singular = genus) are the plant equivalent of surnames, and always have a capital letter.

Species are like first names, and always begin with a lower case letter.

Subspecies (subsp. or ssp.) are a further division of a species (‘sub’ = under) and are like a middle name.

Varieties (var.) are distinct variants of a species which occur naturally.

Cultivars (cv.) are distinct variants of a species which have been developed by nurserymen through hybridisation, selection or mutation. Propagated by cuttings.

Hybrids (x) are the result of cross-pollination of two different plants, usually from the same genus.



The Rubiaceae family includes the genera Coprosma and Nertera.
The Compositae family is the daisy family.

In books, normal print is used for the family name, but the genus and species are italicised eg. Sophora fulvida.

Where a plant has had a name change, the old name is often given after 'syn' for synonym (meaning 'the same').

eg. Sophora fulvida
Syn. Sophora microphylla var. fulvida  (the Auckland West Coast variety).

or Macropiper excelsum subsp. peltatum
Syn. Macropiper excelsum var. psittacorum

Names of varieties or cultivars are written in normal print in books, and always have single inverted commas around them, eg. Hebe ‘Azure’ or Coprosma repens ‘Silver Queen’ or alternatively, for cultivars, Coprosma repens cv. Silver Queen.

Hybrids, which result from cross-pollination, have this indicated by an x in their names.
Rubus x barkeri is a naturally forming hybrid which was given the name of the man who selected it for cultivation.

Hebe diosmifolia x H. townsonii would be the usual way of naming a hybrid between Hebe diosmifolia and Hebe townsonii.