Plant Names and Why They Matter

“Most of us are bored with gossip and photographs

of people we do not know.

The beginner feels the same way about plants”[1]


The plant scene becomes more interesting when you understand the cast of characters a bit. To develop relationships with the plant players, you will want to get to know them as individual kinds. The only reliable way to do that is to know their true Botanical names.

These names are the language of the landscape, the working vocabulary that you will need if you want more than a petting and tending relationship with your plants. If you want to think about them on your own and with others, you will need to be able to refer to them.

  • Information Please
    Once you have the Botanical name of a plant, no matter where you gather further reference information about it, the knowledge you acquire will be accurately related to the particular plant you are wondering about.
    Learning about the plant materials enables you to choose the best candidates for your place by foreseeing where they will succeed ecologically and pictorially in your landscape.
    …………..
  • Knowing the Name allows you to get more of the same thing again.
    If it turns out that you grow and love a plant, you will be able to get more just  like it or to guide others to that wonderful kind you have found.
    ……….
  • The most Beautiful Plant You have ever Seen.
    To obtain a plant you want for your own garden, you could beg some seeds or a baby from a place where you see it, but otherwise, you will need the full name to get the plant you expect to get from anywhere else.
    ………..
  • There are Madison Avenue plants. [2]
    Plants may be substantially more or less gardenworthy. There can be a great qualitative difference between one variety within a species and the others, yet the better ones often cost pretty much the same as their lesser relatives, both in cash and in effort to grow and keep. The less wonderful ones always seem to outnumber the best ones, but there are a great many plants to be choosy with, and noone can grow them all, so why not be discriminating ?

    The best plants may be harder to get a hold of initially, but once you realize that the difference is substantial you will want to know which is which.

“Difficult plants if not successful after a fair trial

should be abandoned for easier subjects of which there are plenty”

Sir Peter Smithers of Vico Morcote

  • By carefully choosing the best, you will be protecting and propagating the exceptional ones for the future.
    To understand the importance of the differences in the names, you can compare this to your type and brand name choices in groceries. You’re off to the store for your favorite cereal.You may want flakes, but do you want large ones or small, wheat, corn or bran? And you may prefer the one with the raisins, so you will search for the one with all these characteristics, and try a few different ones. Which one you end up liking best is up to you, but Kelloggs Raisin Bran ® and Post Raisin Bran ® taste different from each other.
    Once you know your favorite, you want to be able to get the one you like so much again.
    You can only do that with plants if you know their Botanical names.

“Without names there is no recognition,

without recognition there is no minding,

and without minding there is no future.”

Geoffrey Grigson[3]


Bottlephorkia spoonifolia    (11)

The only Plant names which are accurate are

the Botanical Names,which are the

Generic names accompanied by their Specific Epithets.

Some people will refer to these names with terms such as

the ‘ ‘True names’, the ‘Generic names’, the’ Specific names’,

the ‘Latin names’, ‘the Binomial‘ names or the ‘Taxonomic’ names……

The Good News is that

All these terms refer to the

Same Plant Name,

= Which is the Botanical Name.[4]

  • Each plant is by its full Botanical name unique.
    By considering the qualities and propensities of particular plant materials your informed choices can make all the difference in the world to the level of beauty and sustainability you can hope to attain in the landscape.
    ..………..
  • Common names
    While charming, and sometimes informative, these names usually apply to a broad group of similar plants. These kinds of names may vary from place to place, from culture to culture and change over time. For such reasons common names don’t help you much in getting to know the special plant you were curious about any better.
    ……….
  • Some of the very best plants of all time are no longer in commercial cultivation.
    Purchasing plants is kind of like voting. If people don’t pay attention, they may be buying and thus multiplying just the most popular plants of the moment.
    You help the ones you acquire stay in commerce, and often the others do not stay.
    You wouldn’t want to neglect the very best plants that have ever been, who would be so satisfying in the garden context. The better ones deserve to be remembered and asked for by Name.

“The Common is more Supported than the Rare.”[5]

So you will want to know Who’s Who.

Botanical Names Tell Stories.

“Each Plant has a Generic name and a Specific Epithet” [6]

The specific epithet is often a descriptive or characterizing word or phrase composed of multiple words.
This means that the true Botanical name of a plant may be a piece of descriptive prose, if only you know how to translate some pieces of the Botanical language.

  • These Three Things about your Plant will be parts of its Name:

1. The Genus, or Surname of the larger clan to which your plant is related.
This is given on the Left Side of the Botanical name
( = the opposite of the human name way)

2. The Specific Epithet
This follows to the Right of the Surname. The species and subsequent names of the epithet are often adjectives.
A species has traditionally been partly defined as a group closely related enough to intermarry.
Through these marriages there can ensue a great many closely related forms, some which are distinguishable by some meritorious characteristic from other close kin within that species. This may be, for instance, desirable color, texture, stance, shape, duration of bloom or pest resistance in this particular offspring.

3. The Variety
If there is merit to the differences between kin, that special kind of plant will perhaps get a subspecies or varietal name of its own and then will be separately propagated.
This third name is a very important bit because with only the genus and species names, you won’t know which offspring you might end up with from all those marriages.

  • Clues Within the Names
    The species and subsequent names often work as adjectives. For this reason, embedded in the Botanical names are often partial descriptions of the particular kind of plant. They may contain clues to notable particulars of character, appearance in color or texture, and sometimes to behavior or ecology of origin.
    Sometimes the variety name references the ‘Human story’ of that kind of plant. The plant name may honor the people, places or particular nurseries involved in either originating, finding and/or perhaps propagating the plant you are getting to know.

Manypeeplia upsidownia

As an example of descriptive naming,

from A Nonsense Botany by Edward Lear.

  • Botanical names are more easily remembered when you understand their intrinsic meanings.
    The appended adjectives help you to understand things about your plants, so you will probably enjoy learning some of this vocabulary.
    The plant below is related to all Clovers = Oxalis but note the appended adjectives. This particular kind has some special characteristics as described in its name.

    Vive la Difference.
    .….
  • A Translated example from the Real World :

[8]

Oxalis triangularis papilionaceae ‘Atropurpurea’

Triangularis = shaped like triangles, =  three angles
Certainly describes the leaf shape well.

papilionaceae = like a butterfly
In the night this plant closes up its leaves and they look like butterflies at rest.

Atro = dark, purpurea = purplish color
Dark purplish leaves which contrast beautifully with green foliage in the surroundings.

  • Your Translations

You will need a Plant Lexicon or a Naturalist’s Lexicon[9], whether paper or Cyber, to ‘decode’ the information within the Botanical names.
Whether the words came from Latin, Greek, old English or wherever, a Lexicon can help you translate the specific epithet to find out what the adjectives at hand actually mean.

  • If you can just be brave enough to begin to think in ‘plant language’, start with your few words. Add more words to your vocabulary little by little as you go along, just as you would with any language you were trying to learn. Having learned a little of the vocabulary, when you come across new plant names that contain this word you will automatically know something about the plant at hand, though you have only just met.
    The important thing is to decide to put yourself in a milieu where the language is used, and pay attention. Make a beginning, do the best you can, and all will be well.
    Learning a language takes time. Expect to take notes.
  • Never mind perfect pronounciation or exact spelling, ask about it later.
    Just try for enough of the spelling to subsequently get Google’s help in the matter.


In “Winnie the Pooh” Christopher Robin made a sign for Owl’s door which said “Ples nok if rnser is reqrd”. [10]

We readers figured out what was meant.

 

 

 


[1] Fletcher Steele, Gardens and People
[2]
Madison Avenue in New York City is renowned for having shops with the highest level of beautiful merchandise for sale, but the things are invariably expensive.
[3]
From an article in The English Garden, By Plantlife International
[4]
It seems to me that if we capitalise the terms “Latin” names and “Greek” names that we ought to capitalise “Botanical”  names, as it refers to the language of  the Plant Kingdom.
[5]
Andrea Bocelli
[6]
Michael Dirr, who always says things well.
[7] and (11) From A Nonsense Botany by Edward Lear

[8] Watercolor by Racket Shreve
[9]
Horticulture Publications has recently (2005) published such a volume, calling it Plant Names Explained. It has lots of useful Botanical terms in translation.I also have a lovely old volume from 1944 called The Naturalists Lexicon by R.S Woods, and it serves me very well much of the time, though less complete for Botanical references.
[10]
A.A. Milne

 

This entry was posted in Garden Making Guidance, Long Blooming Plants, Most Popular Posts, Plant Portraits and Stories, Things They Never Tell You and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.
  • All written and visual materials on this site are Copyrighted. (C) Ellen Cool 2010 - 2017

67 Comments

  1. Posted 2014/09/22 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Good way of explaining,fastidious article

  2. Posted 2014/09/07 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    I like what I see so now i am following you.

    Look forward to finding your web page yet again.

  3. Posted 2012/04/10 at 2:00 am | Permalink

    What a fantastic blog you have created. I just stopped in to let you know I truly enjoyed your blog and shall be checking in from time to time from now on.

  4. Posted 2012/04/07 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    I just wanted to chip in and say that I completely love your blog. Your entries are so thought provoking and original.

  5. Posted 2012/03/27 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    I personally appreciate the effort you put into thisand hope to see more of your viewpoints in the near future.

  6. Posted 2012/03/16 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    You have remarked very interesting details!

  7. Posted 2012/03/14 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Nice post. I’m impressed! Very useful information Thank you and best of luck.

  8. Posted 2012/03/14 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    Some genuinely nice stuff on this website , I like it.

  9. Posted 2012/03/12 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    It is amazing! Thank you for sharing.

  10. Posted 2012/03/10 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    I’ve got the impression that anyone who visits this blog falls in love with it

  11. Posted 2012/03/10 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Hi! Great post! :)

  12. Posted 2012/03/09 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    I like this blog very much!

  13. Posted 2012/03/09 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this marvelous posting! I quite enjoyed reading it, you happen to be a great author.I will always bookmark your blog.I want to encourage you to definitely continue your great writing, have a nice day!

  14. Posted 2012/03/08 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    Can’t wait to read more of your articles in the future. thumbs up!.

  15. Posted 2012/03/07 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Normally I don’t learn on blogs, however I would like to say that this write-up forced me to check out and do so! Your writing taste has been amazed me. Thank you, quite great post.

  16. Posted 2012/03/06 at 12:58 am | Permalink

    Rattling nice design and style and excellent subject material, very little else we require :D.

  17. Posted 2012/03/04 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    You might want to sign up for a facebook fan page to go with the blog.

  18. Posted 2012/03/02 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Respect to post author, some fantastic selective information .

  19. Posted 2012/03/01 at 1:03 am | Permalink

    The information you offer on this website has helped me tremendously. Thanks for all of your time and work.

  20. Posted 2012/02/29 at 12:15 am | Permalink

    Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the superb work!

  21. Posted 2012/02/27 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Due to this blog I understood a lot of new things

  22. Posted 2012/02/27 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    I like your site plain and simple. Keep up the good work and I will keep coming back.

  23. Posted 2012/02/23 at 5:01 am | Permalink

    Many thanks for rendering those warm and friendly,edifying and in addition fun tips on this topic.

  24. Posted 2012/02/22 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    Hi my friend! I wish to say that this article is amazing, well written and comes with approximately all vital infos. I would like more posts like this.

  25. Posted 2012/02/22 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Woah! I really like the template of this site. It’s simple, yet effective. Excellent harmony between user friendliness and graphic look and feel.

  26. Posted 2012/02/21 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Hello There.This is a very well written article. I’ll return to learn more of your helpful information. Thanks for the post.

  27. Posted 2012/02/21 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Do you mind if I quote a few of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your webpage? My website is in the exact same area of interest as yours and my users would certainly benefit from a lot of the information you present here. Please let me know if this okay with you. Many thanks!

  28. Posted 2012/02/21 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    I actually wanted to make a simple remark to say thanks to you for some of the marvelous ways you are writing here. I feel quite lucky to have used your weblog and look forward to so many more thrilling moments reading here. Thank you once more for all the details.

  29. Posted 2012/02/21 at 4:19 am | Permalink

    Really am fond of this post. I will be be linking back to this from my own blog.

  30. Posted 2012/02/20 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Hi! Great post! :)

  31. Posted 2012/02/19 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    I like this website very much so much fantastic information.

  32. Posted 2012/02/17 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Websites we think you should visit…

  33. Posted 2012/02/16 at 2:21 am | Permalink

    As usual you did a good job evaluating the problem and coming up with a good answer. I will keep watching for more releases on your site.

  34. Posted 2012/02/15 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    Fantastic write-up. The visual material shown here is actually of quite great quality. I will utilize this internet site more frequently.

  35. Posted 2011/07/22 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    You made various fine points there.

  36. Posted 2011/07/16 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    I believe the article here is rattling superb, regards for your efforts.

  37. Posted 2011/02/13 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Great work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the internet. Shame on Google for not positioning this post higher! Thanks

  38. Posted 2011/02/01 at 4:52 am | Permalink

    I essentially like your weblog, Its very good to discover not everybody is just posting a bunch of garbage these days!

  39. Posted 2011/01/30 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    really great stuff…

  40. Posted 2011/01/29 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    This blog site has lots of extremely helpful info on it. Thanks for informing me.

  41. Posted 2011/01/29 at 3:00 am | Permalink

    Just discovered this blog thru Bing, what a pleasant surprise!

  42. Posted 2011/01/27 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    great tips! thanks!

  43. Posted 2011/01/18 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    Hi. I needed to drop you a quick thanks. Ive been following your blog for a month or so and have picked up a ton of fine info and loved the tactics with which youve structured your site.

  44. Posted 2011/01/15 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    An insightful post there mate . Thanks for posting .

  45. Posted 2011/01/14 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Pretty really good post. I just stumbled upon your blog site and wished to say that I have genuinely enjoyed reading your blog site posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you article again soon.

  46. Posted 2011/01/12 at 2:22 am | Permalink

    This really solved my problem, thank you!

  47. Posted 2011/01/08 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    That’s excellent and very nicely written. Usually I tend not to make comments on the web, However , I have got to congratulate you on this one. Awesome site

  48. Posted 2011/01/05 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    I like this concept. I visited your site for the first time and simply been your fan. Continue to keep posting as I am planning to come to read it daily!!

  49. Posted 2011/01/04 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    Educational article, this is. It is definitely wonderful to come across a article that is useful.

  50. Posted 2011/01/04 at 2:56 am | Permalink

    It had been some time since I visited web site with such high quality information. Thanks rather a lot for the helpful information

  51. Posted 2010/12/29 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    Very nice post. I’ve really enjoyed visiting your site posts. Whatever the case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and i also hope you write again soon! Thank you, I’ll make an attempt to check back more often. Happy new year!

  52. Posted 2010/12/21 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    When are you going to post again? You really inform me!

  53. Posted 2010/12/16 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Well I found this on Digg, and I like it so I dugg it!

  54. Posted 2010/12/13 at 4:07 am | Permalink

    enormous daybook

  55. Posted 2010/12/13 at 1:23 am | Permalink

    Kudos to you! This is a really good blog here and I love your style of writing. How did you get so good at blogging?

  56. Posted 2010/12/11 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Strange this post is totaly unrelated to what I was searching google for, but it was listed on the first page. I guess your doing something right if Google likes you enough to put you on the first page of a non related search. :)

  57. Posted 2010/12/06 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Incredible write-up. Did you read the related piece in the Huffington Publish some time ago? It seems that more and more mainstream media are having to pay consideration to this. I hope your website will get more and more subscribers as this problem gets more attention, as it is a superb resource.

  58. Posted 2010/12/05 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    That’s excellent and very nicely written. Usually I tend not to make comments on the web, However , I have got to congratulate you on this one. Awesome site

  59. Posted 2010/12/01 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    i love the way u write, i will segure bookmark it!

  60. Posted 2010/11/30 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    oh cool, this information is really useful and definately is comment worthy! hehe. I’ll see if I can try to use some of this information for my own blog. Thanks!

  61. Posted 2010/11/30 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    Nice share admin , this is a interesting blog u have here

  62. Posted 2010/11/29 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    Please tell me that youre going to keep this up! Its so superior and so important. I cant wait to read additional from you. I just feel like you know so significantly and know how to make people listen to what you’ve to say. This weblog is just as well cool to be missed. Excellent things, truly. Please, PLEASE keep it up!

  63. Posted 2010/11/27 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Hey there everybody, This site is remarkable and so is exactly how the matter has been expanded. I like a few of the responses also although I would prefer all of us keep it on the subject to be able to bring value to the topic.

  64. Posted 2010/11/21 at 3:27 am | Permalink

    Merci!

  65. Posted 2010/11/10 at 3:04 am | Permalink

    Nice site, nice and easy on the eyes and great content too.

  66. Posted 2010/10/07 at 2:26 am | Permalink

    Respect to the author of skillful text. I want to say thanks for the right words, and thanks to google for the high rating of your blog.

  67. sandy fox
    Posted 2010/10/01 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Ellen, I love your website! Have added it to my “favorites” and will check in regularly.

5 Trackbacks

  • By Maia Pedaci on 2012/07/03 at 10:26 pm

    Appreciating this detailed information

  • By Luna Shunk on 2012/03/08 at 9:59 pm

    Really value this article.Much thanks. Really Cool….

  • By Keaton Hausman on 2012/03/08 at 7:31 pm

    Keaton Hausman…

    Really appreciate you sharing this article post….

  • By Ethan Barr on 2012/02/22 at 11:32 am

    Thanks a lot for this blog article.Really thank you! Great….

  • By Karina Ruel on 2012/02/19 at 2:45 am

    Karina Ruel…

    I think this is a real great blog.Really looking forward to read more. Want more….

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>