When you visit the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, you will notice signs identifying the plants. In the Japanese Garden, for example, you will see signs that read “Acer palmatum (Japanese maple).” Many people know that the part of the name in italics is the formal name of the plant, written in Latin (more or less.) Some people might even know that Acer palmatum is the genus and species of the tree more commonly known as Japanese maple. But why? What is the purpose of giving plants names in a dead language?