The modern taxonomic system—the way of describing organisms based on their species, genus, family, order, class, phylum, and kingdom—was formalized in the mid-1700s. Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus is credited with standardizing binomial nomenclature, the standard of referring to organisms by their genus and species (for example, Tilia japonica). In the 1700s, surnames were uncommon in Sweden, so when Linnaeus’ father went to university years earlier, he gave himself a Latinized last name in honor of the large linden trees—“linn” in contemporary Swedish—that grew at the family’s estate. He also gave the name to his son, Carl.
It is fitting, therefore, that the Arboretum’s linden trees exemplify the similarities between related trees so readily. Most of the Arboretum’s plants are arranged taxonomically—grouping related trees together. The lindens before you belong to the same genus—Tilia—as the similarities between the trees’ foliage, flowers, fruit, and branch architecture suggest.