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I'm reasonably familiar with the capitalisation and italicisation rules that govern scientific names, but am a bit confused about capitalising, or not, the name of a genus, e.g. Eucalyptus when used in a sentence. Which of the following is correct?

Where do Eucalyptus trees come from?
Where do eucalyptus trees come from?

Is this correct: "Are eucalypts indigenous to Australia?"

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Yes, your last sentence would be correct - you don't need to capitalize "eucalypts". Normal English capitalization rules apply, of course: DO capitalize it at the beginning of a sentence, or in the case of a pub called The Fookin' Eucalypt. (I would totally drink there.) –  MT_Head Jul 5 '12 at 8:19

1 Answer 1

We don't write Oak tree, and there's no reason to write Eucalyptus tree in non-specialist writing. However, in scientific writing it is customary to capitalise the first letter of a genus (but not the first letter of a species), so botanists would describe the tree native to Australia as Eucalyptus obliqua.

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So, do we capitalize it because it is the genus ("oak" being the common term rather than "Quercus"), or don't capitalize it because we are not using it in a scientific context? –  BillyNair Jul 5 '12 at 7:25
    
@BillyNair: Both. –  Barrie England Jul 5 '12 at 7:27
    
GAH!! So it is fine either way? the sentence: "I watched a koala climb the Eucalyptus tree." would be ok? or should I save the capital for talking about scientific terms? –  BillyNair Jul 5 '12 at 7:46
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@BillyNair - You could say "I watched a koala climb the eucalyptus tree" (lower case), or "I watched the Phascolarctos cinereus climb the Eucalyptus obliqua." You don't need to capitalize the genus (in a non-scientific context) UNLESS it is not the same as the common name (capitalize Quercus, don't capitalize oak.) –  MT_Head Jul 5 '12 at 7:49
    
OK, that is what I was thinking. Just got confused in the translation. –  BillyNair Jul 5 '12 at 8:10

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