I always remember my father telling me, when I was put into the Latin class at school, that it was a good thing, because I would be able to find out more about plants through their names.
He was showing me a plant we called lambs-ears,because it was thick,silver-grey and woolly,and said that lanata was the latin for woolly,alba meant white and pendula meant hanging.
I did not enjoy Latin: there was a lot of boring war involved,and although for a while after that I tried to enjoy it, it didnt last long! However, I kept my love of plants, and after many years have picked up a fair number of latin names for my favourites.
The first picture is of the woolly plant stachys lanata.
Most plants have two types of name, as do humans: the difference is, plants put the family name first.
It is not wise to trust the common,or nick-name of a plant, because all flowers that look like daisies are in fact NOT daisies (that's only one example).
It is best to use a botanical name when choosing plants because gardeners all over the world will use the same one.
The family name,or genus,tells us to which general group of plants the flower belongs; the second name is more specific.
The first name often ends in aceae.
For example,the general viola group, to which the violet belongs, is called in Latin Violaceae.
The second name of a plant may describe some part of it ( it could be one of the names my father taught me, there are hundreds),or it could be the name of a person, maybe the person who discovered it.
John Tradescant (1580 - 1638) was a very well - known naturalist and plant collector,and Aster Tradescantii is named after him. Berberis Thunbergii, a Japanese bush, is named after Carl B. Thunberg (1743 - 1828) who was a botanist and explorer.
Weigela is named after a well-known Swiss botanist, C. E Weigel (1748 - 1831).
Some of the country nicknames of plants are quite poetic.
Often used in bouquets, Gypsophila is called 'Baby's Breath'.
Gypsophila means 'chalk-loving' and tells us what kind of soil it prefers.
The second name, repens, means 'creeping' and tells us how it grows.
Here is a picture of Gypsophila repens.
If the second name of any plant is Officinalis, it was either used medicinally or for food at the time it was named.
The pot marigold, Calendula Officinalis, has its first name because it blooms through the year, and its second because people believed it cured warts.
These are my favourite garden plants.
Beware of some second names:
Armata means prickly
Glutinosa means sticky
Foetida means it has a terrible smell!
This last picture is of a very unusual plant,
Fritillaria is from the Latin name for dice-box, Fritillus.
Meleagris means 'spotted like a guinea-fowl'.
Without seeing the plant you know it is spotted!
This unusual flower,whose nickname is Snake's Head Fritillary,is of the Lillaceae,or lily family, and grows from a bulb.
It is unusual because the petals are beautifully chequered.
It is in shades of purple,or sometimes white(my app.doesnt have a purple option for some reason).
It is the only plant I know which has this chequerboard look,and its Latin name is exceptionally apt.
Take time to read the latin names on your seed-packets. They are there for a reason!