Post by Bob Woodhouse
I'm writing an academic paper on plants, but I'm not sure whether to
capitalize, italicize, or put quotation marks around a plant's
epithet, such as black-eyed Susan.
As I've seen it written many different ways, I would appreciate
knowing whether academic editors consider any of those ways more
correct than the others.
'Correct' will be either your publisher's house style, or the style
adopted by other academic papers dealing with the same topic, or both.
You doubtless know this already, but many plants have more than one
common name, and any one common name may apply to more than one plant.
Black-eyed Susan is the American common name for Rudbeckia hirts, but
it's also the British common name for Thunbergia alata. Depending on
the expected readership of your paper, you may need to spell this out.
If there were ever only one common name per one plant, the easiest
course would be to put the common name in parentheses immediately after
your first mention of the Latin name, making clear the first time you do
it that this is what all parenthesised names are. But of course it
won't be as simple as that.