We’re finally seeing a few signs of the growing season starting here in Pennsylvania, but there are still several more days before spring officially arrives, so I’ll indulge now in one of my favorite winter topics: botanical nomenclature. One subject I haven’t covered yet is plant names that relate to the body parts of all kinds of critters, including people. Usually there’s some relation between the body part and the shape or texture of the flower, leaf, or some other structure, but sometimes it’s a clue to the plant’s historical use.
Most, if not all, of these will be obvious to those of you who work in the medical field, and I’m sure all of you will recognize at least some of these. It’s not an exhaustive list, as I couldn’t find plant-name examples for all body parts (feel free to speak up if you know of any I missed), and I deliberately left out some parts to keep things…um…safe for all readers. I’ll warn you now, this is a long one, so if nomenclature isn’t your thing, maybe you’d rather just scroll through the pictures and catch the bit of news at the end.
Still here? Ok, then, working roughly from head to hoof…
Continue reading What’s in a Name? Body Talk
It’s the season for studying seed catalogs and seed-exchange lists, which always gets me thinking about how fascinating botanical names can be. For this part of my What’s in a Name? series, I’ve collected a bunch of epithets that relate to mammals. Sometimes, these epithets refer to plant traits that resemble the shapes, markings, or parts of particular animals. In other cases, the connections are tenuous at best, perhaps existing only in the mind of the person that chose the epithet in the first place. Even if you don’t know why a plant has an animal-related botanical name, it may at least help you remember the connection between its botanical and common names.
Continue reading What’s in a Name? Let’s Get Animal
Asclepias speciosa (showy milkweed)
Ready for another ramble through the wonderful world of botanical nomenclature? This time, let’s look at names that relate to…well, let’s call them value judgments – not specific traits like leaf shape, flower color, or geographic origin, but more subjective descriptors, along the lines of of really pretty, desperately dull, and utterly ordinary. Continue reading What’s in a Name? The Good, the Bad, and the Ordinary