Like all classified animals, plants also have scientific names (you can see these scientific names in all of the Fact Sheets). Plants are scientficially classified with a system called binomial nomenclature. Here's how it works...
A botanist discovers a new species of plant. He or she studies this plant and finds out that it is indeed a new plant species that has never been described or classified before. The botanist has the honor of naming the plant in with the binomial nomenclature system, and this name is so specific that this is the only plant species with this name. It is not like a common name, which is named haphazardly by anyone, is different in any given language or have multiple names at once, and it can change over time.
First the species is classified within six of the seven levels of the taxonomic tree, being kingdom, phylum, class, order, family and genus. Sometimes a new plant genus is discovered, and that genus must also be named. But the botanist has discovered a new species that can be classified in an existing plant genus. Let's say the existing genus is the same as English ivy, Hedera.
When using binomial nomenclature, a plant is named by the last two levels of this taxonomic tree: genus and species. So the botanist chooses a species name (the seventh level of the taxonomic tree) for his new plant. Usually the species name is some sort of describing word stemming from Latin or Greek. So the botanist decides that the species will be splendens (meaning "splendid") because the plant is so beautiful.
Therefore, in the binomial nomenclature system, our botanist has scientifically named the plant Hedera splendens.
Plants can be reclassified and names changed. This happens all the time. As scientists learn more and study animals and plants, they discover that certain species should be split into their own genera, or that they should be put into a different genus. A name change has recently happened with the pothos plant, which used to be classified in the Pothos genus, is now Epipremnum aureum.
You'll know when you're looking at a scientific name because it will be written in italics, with the genus name capitalized and the species name lowercased. Scientific names are beneficial to the gardener because it helps us to identify the plants we are purchasing. If we read about a great plant in a book, it's good to know the common and scientific name before going to our local garden shop. We can ask a worker at the garden center to help us find that exact plant. We can also look up how to care for our specific plant species if we know its scientific name.