Lemon Mint Marigold (Tagetes lemmonii) Name Confusion
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Wipa Watson and Carletta M. Keith
Posted on: August 1, 2001

From Wipa Watson:

I am interested in Lemon Mint Marigold (T. Lemmonii). However, after doing some research on the internet, T. Lemmonii shows up as T. Lucida. Are these the same? Could your catalog be wrong in printing this?

From Carletta Keith:

I notice you have Mexican Mint Marigold listed with a botanical name of Tagetes lemmonii.

I have bought a plant in Texas which is Copper Canyon daisy and I find in many locations on the internet that it is also listed as Tagetes lemmonii. I wonder if you would care to comment on this duplication of names. In other places I find that Mexican Mint Marigold has a botanical name of Tagetes lucida.

Common names are often a source of confusion. There is no regulated process by which the common names get attached to plants. As a result, the same name can end up being used for entirely different plants. The confusion caused is never deliberate, but it has happened a lot.

One way it happens is when a plant gets a name in one locality and gets a different name in another locality in ignorance of the first name. As long as the plant is only locally important it doesn’t matter. However, when a company like Richters takes notice of the plant and its properties and decides to offer it to the rest of the world, which local name is the correct one?

Some herbs have more than a hundred local names! Fortunately, most of the common herbs have well-established, and internationally recognized common names. But its the less well known herbs that seem to have problems with multiple names.

Botanical names (also known as ‘scientific names’) are generally more reliable because they are regulated by the taxonomists. However, even then taxonomists disagree or they make mistakes that are later corrected, and you can often have a similar situation where the same botanical name is applied to different plants.

In the case of Tagetes lemmonii we had the choice of several common names: "Mount Lemmon marigold", "lemon mint marigold", "Copper Canyon daisy", "tangerine scented marigold", and "Mexican lemon-mint marigold" -- and probably more, if we dug further. We decided to avoid any name with "Mexican" in it because there is already a lot of confusion between Mexican marigold (T. minuta) and Mexican tarragon (T. lucida – what we call "sweet marigold"), two plants that are entirely different from T. lemmonii.

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