Good things about Botanical plant names

Winter is the time for more planning and less gardening so it’s a good moment

Iris photo

Iris foetidissima – The Stinking Iris

to look at the meaning of botanical plant names:

Botanical names identify an individual plant uniquely across the world whatever language the gardener speaks.

Plant names have 2 parts: genus & species. Like levels in ‘family tree’ showing how near or far plants are related.

The 2nd name (species) often tells where in world plant is from, what leaf, flower is like or conditions it needs

Where plant species are named after people (e.g. the collector) the name is Latinised eg Forrestii for George Forrest.

Many species names are Latin words but some are Greek – Euphorbia polychrome, poly=many, chroma=colours

Descriptive names: Pyrus salicifolia is Willow leaved Pear; Salix=willow, folia= leaves. This small tree has long narrow leaves, more typical of a Willow than a fruit tree.

Conditions: Caltha palustris is the Marsh Marigold, palustris means ‘from a bog’ and it needs permanently wet soil.

Origin: Wisteria sinensis: this species of Wisteria is native to China, ‘sinensis’ means from China in all plant names.

Primula vulgaris is ‘common’ primrose i.e. our native species. There is nothing vulgar about its delicate yellow flowers!

So read a few labels, expand your vocabulary & discover things you never knew about your favourite plants.

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