I often encounter the root "phyllum" in binomial names in botany, but I've had trouble finding an actual definition for this root in any Latin dictionary outside of its taxonomic meaning. From context it seems to mean "leaf":

  • Acer macrophyllum - Bigleaf Maple
  • Tsuga heterophylla - A Hemlock with distinct two-ranked needles

But the Latin for leaf should be folium. Is there any real rhyme or reason to this? I don't know if this is a question better directed towards the Latin stackexchange, but I thought a botanist might have some insight on the subject.


2 Answers 2


Binomial names often use of greek words. Phyllum means -- as you correctly stated -- "leaf", but is not derived from latin but from the greek φύλλον, 'phyllon'.

By the way, there are also lots of examples where the latin word 'folium' is used. To stick with the genus Acer from your example, there is another species named Acer gracilifolium. So don't be confused by the linguistic chaos in binomial nomenclature.


Phyllum is used to refer leaf in Botanical nomenclature. How the word "Phyllum" is derived is not known.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Doesn't the existing answer already explain it? Why do you say it is not known? $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Aug 9, 2020 at 1:08

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