When visiting Arlington National Cemetery, you will notice labels on many trees, including state champions, memorial trees and Medal of Honor trees. The information on the labels includes the tree's scientific name, common name, family and native range:
The scientific name is universal, allowing horticulturists, naturalists, arborists, botanists and other scientists from around the world to have a standardized name for a tree. The first part of the name is the genus (e.g. type) and the second part of the name is called the specific epithet. The two names together comprise the species name. Sometimes the name includes a third part which indicates that the tree is a subspecies, variety or cultivar of the species. If the name includes an “X” between the genus and species name, this indicates that the tree is a hybrid between two species. When the genus name is preceded by an “X,” the tree is a hybrid or cross between two genera.
The common name is what the tree is known as locally. Common names can be confusing, because the same tree may have different common names in different parts of the world, country or even state. The black gum tree, for example, is also known as the tupelo, black tupelo or sour gum. To avoid any confusion, the use of the scientific name, Nyssa sylvatica, allows scientists from all over the world to understand one another — to be up the right tree, so to speak.
The family name goes one step further in classifying the type of tree. It is useful to understand how different species are related to one another.
The label also indicates the tree's approximate native range. Although a large portion of the cemetery's trees are native to northern Virginia, many exotic or non-native trees complement the landscape.