I have the hardest time figuring out if Majorana hortensis and Origanum majorana are the same plant, or not. Both of these latin names are frequently seen in seed shops and nurseries in my area. Are they the same or not? I can't find a consensus opinion on the net.

What is a good reference database for resolving such issues?

2 Answers 2


Yes, they are the same species. Moench put it as different genus (Majorana), but still keeping references to Linnaeus' Origanum majorana.

So they are the same species, and both are acceptable (and valid) names, but the currently accepted name is Origanum majorana.

I use the Plant List: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-143853 This database is created by major taxonomic/botanical institutions. It is automatically generated from the most important taxonomic literature. IPNI (just google it) has much more names, it doesn't try to find the actual "accepted name", and there is a lot of double entries. Also this is done by Kew (and includes major database). BTW Plant List uses also IPNI as source.

Often different authors use different names (but list the original all synonyms), because they think that the such plant need to be in a different genus. So often such synonyms are easy to find and to agree. But in particular on subspecies and variety level, many people describe the "same" plant [with different herbaria sample]. To find synonym in this case it much more difficult, and people cannot really agree, if the variation are enough for a new variety, or just normal variation.

On the link of Origanum majorana that I copied above, you can see that most of the names are valid. One Invalid and two illegitimate. Invalid: it is not permitted (on botanical names) to have specific epithet similar to the genus. Illegitimate: probably they are published later (when a valid name were already available, using the same classification (in this case, the same Genus)).


Yes, they are the same plant. Several hundreds years ago, when botanists worldwide were trying to classify plants, they didn't have the resources to compare their samples to a standard one and they relied on the visual similarity of plants to group them into families and genera. They sometimes gave scientific names to plants that were already having one, either because they though they were different species or because they didn't know what other botanists did.

A scientific name of the plant also includes its authority, in this case Origanum majorana L. (meaning it was named as such by Linnaeus) and Majorana hortensis Moench (named by Moench, ofcourse). The authority of a species is rarely used on seed packaging because it is usually irelevant to the end user.

There are germplasm collections that try to mach synonyms in their online databases, one of their purposes being a more efficient conservation of plant resources. The site of U.S. National Plant Germplasm System has historical data about their taxons, useful if you want to know when a certain name was first used and in what other documents it was cited.

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