Thanks to Murray Fagg, from the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research in Canberra (brought to you by the Australian National Botanic Gardens and CSIRO...), passing on the kind of email that I'm sure he gets everyday, I can report that the longest scientific name for a plant (i.e. binomial) is, probably
Ornithogalum adseptentrionesvergentulum, at 38 letters.
Or is it
Crepidiastrixeris denticulatoplatyphylla (which used to be Crepidiastrixeris denticulato-platyphylla but I think we take the hyphens out these days), at 39 letters?
Both names pip what might be the next longest
Leucospermum hypophyllocarpodendron, at 34 letters
The source of these record breaking names is the International Plant Name Index (IPNI), via another Centre employee, Kirsten Cowley - thanks Kirsten!
According to Kirsten, and IPNI, Poa fax at six letters is the shortest plant name, beating three species of the genus Aa (e.g. Aa rosei) at seven letters.
If we turn to individual species names (epithets) alone its a whole new competition - and no I don't know the result. I do know there are a few species names of only three letters (see picture above of where the alga Vaucheria lii grows - it's not a plant but it's green) but I'm pretty sure there is one around that of only two.
And what about animals and bugs? The longest is apparently Parastratiosphecomyia stratiosphecomyioides, a fly, which I think is 41 letters in length - but I'm getting tired of counting. A bat, Ia io, has the honor of the smallest name.
If there is a longer or shorter plant name out there then do tell me, and I'll tell Murray who'll tell Kirsten who'll bother IPNI.
And if you are wondering what the longest common name is for a plant, Kristen Cowley reports that one web site claims it to be 'Meet-her-in-the-entry-and-kiss-her-in-the-buttery'. This fun plant is none other than a violet named by Carl Linneaus, Viola tricolor.