Posts Tagged ‘name change’

Rosemary is now sage!

December 27th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Botanically speaking, rosemary is now a Salvia


Yes, you may have heard about this, it even featured on the Radio 4 news: the botanists have decided that rosemary is actually sage. No no, don’t panic. We can all still call it rosemary, of course, and still cook it with the roast lamb. But botanically speaking sage was Salvia and rosemary was Rosmarinus – not any more. Here’s why.

Botanists have been taking a close look at rosemary, and also Russian sage (Perovskia), for some time. It was back in the 1830s that it was realised how similar, botanically, sage and rosemary are and even then it was proposed that the scientific name for rosemary should be Salvia rosmarinus. But the name never stuck.

There are almost a thousand different Salvia species growing wild around the world and botanists have now agreed that Rosmarinus and Perovskia are more similar, botanically, to many Salvia species than some other Salvia species are to each other.

When new science turns up things like this, the botanical names have to change to reflect the new understanding and there were two options. Keep the names Rosmarinus and Perovskia, and also give new names to about seven hundred plants previously known as Salvia. Or change Rosmarinus and Perovskia (and a few other genera neither you nor I have ever heard of) to Salvia. And that’s what’s happened – with just fifteen name changes. Fifteen is better than seven hundred: job done.

So botanically rosemary is now Salvia rosmarinus; Russian sage is now Salvia yangii.

But when the recipe says rosemary – you know they don’t mean sage, right?