About Good Scents

The cut flower business ended in 2011 but I continue to post other items about gardening.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Botanical Names 101

I order most of my perennials from a wholesale company called Bluebird Nursery in Nebraska and their latest newsletter contained a short glossary of names frequently used as botanical species names and their meanings. I'm lazy about looking up stuff like this and thought it was quite useful. Here they are:

argentea (ar-JEN-te-a) Silvery.
carnosus (kar-NO-sus) Fleshy
glabra (GLA-bra) Smooth, without hairs.
gracilis (GRAS-i-lis) Graceful, slender
japonica (ja-PON-i-ka) Of Japan
majalis (ma-JA-lis) Of May, Maytime
officinalis (o-fis-i-NA-lis) Medicinal
sempervirens (sem-per-VI-renz) Evergreen
sylvestris (sil-VES-tris) Of woods or forests
vulgaris (vul-GA-ris) Common

I knew a few of these like sylvestris, vulgaris and japonica, and might have guesses at gracilis but officinalis, argentea, majalis and glabra were new to me. Now some of the names I knew make more sense. For example, I knew lily of the valley was Convallaria majalis, and knew it bloomed in May, but didn't realize the name could have told me that. I knew American inkberry holly was Ilex glabra, and knew it didn't have spiny leaves like many hollies, but the name could have told me that, too.

Years ago I ordered a book called How Plants Get Their Names from J.L. Hudson Seeds - maybe I'll finally crack it open!

No comments: