What's in a name?

floral_uk z.8/9 SW UKAugust 1, 2014

'A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.'

Absolutely true, but if you are searching for reliable information using the correct name will get you more hits from reputable sources. I'm not referring to common names, but the linguistically interesting back formations and reinterpretations of botanical names which evolve.

Some examples:

A Cosmo (Cosmos is singular & plural)
Rudbeckia 'Goldstrum' (Goldsturm)
A Gladiola ( Gladiolus/Gladioli)

Any more favourites?

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gyr_falcon(Sunset 23 USDA 9)

I am not certain I am understanding your question clearly. Google is my go-to online search engine, when it is available. There are suggestions for your search, in a drop-down box and below, that give the opportunity to correct to the more accepted/common spelling or name usage. If it is an accepted form of the name, most quality plant information sites will tell about other name forms, so they get included in both search results anyway. I usually seek information through one of my favorite information sites first, then resort to broader google sources if what I wanted to know was not available from the trusted favorites.

Alternates with differences earlier in the word can make it tricky sometimes--such as with Rhaphiolepis and Raphiolepis. But it was more a problem of my husband thinking I was misspelling the name in reports because he was using one spelling while I had begun using the other.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 1:24PM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

The question was merely a light hearted enquiry as to whether anyone else has favourite examples of misunderstandings, linguistic back formations or folk etymologies in plant names. It isn't intended as a serious debate, although if a name is miswritten it does reduce the hit rate despite Google suggestions. Try it with Rohdia - which has come up on GW. (ie Rohdea).

On the other hand, we should at least try to be accurate, shouldn't we?

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 5:31AM
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daisyincrete Z10? 905feet/275 metres

If you add in, old age brain death, which I am sure I am suffering from, it gets worse.
I wanted to ask a question on a forum about Muhlenbergia capillaris. Although I was thinking Muhlenbergia capillaris, I actually wrote Muehlenbeckia axillaris, which understandably caused great confusion!
When I started getting replies along the lines of " It does well in shade and will grow as a short climber or ground cover", I thought WHAT!!!
It wasn't until I checked my original post, that I realised what I had written.
I certainly had red cheeks that day.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 7:53AM
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No harm playing around with common names.

"Goldstrum": Don't speak German.

"Gladiola": old usage.
suggestion: past confusion with the Victorian girl's name, "Gladiola". Gladius and gladiolus are masculine nouns.

"Cosmo": interesting.
Is this an example of a common aspect of slang, namely, using words that fit rigidly into the rules of English grammar, in this case forming the plural by adding "s"? People who are aware of all the idiosycracies of the language can say: "That's not good English!"

Actually in botany, "Cosmos" is never plural, since Cosmos (capitalized) is the name of the one and only Genus to which all of the "cosmos", "cosmoses", "cosmoi" (species and cultivars of the the Genus Cosmos) belong.

Still, my own feeling is that we don't really need to bother about annuals here. After all, this is the Perennial Form.

This post was edited by SunnyBorders on Sun, Aug 3, 14 at 9:25

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 1:51PM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

Cosmo was Kramer's first name on Seinfeld :0p

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 4:05PM
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Good point Mxk3.

Too much television!

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 4:21PM
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That 'Goldsturm', 'Goldstrum' one is a classic.

Not exactly what you are getting at but very current to me.

Several weeks ago I purchased and planted

Ranunculus acris "Flore Pleno" [Multiplex]

when I had been intending to get

Ranunculus aconitifolius "Flore Pleno"

I only realized my mistake when I was at the same nursery today and noticed both tags on plants in different sections of the nursery (both plants looked kind of yucky so I couldn't distinguish them by sight...do both plants go dormant?)

My fault of course.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 5:51PM
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I think names get mixed up all the time, by me and others. I think it is funny how many times I get "Did you mean.....?" when I am searching. It is true that you get the better sites and information if you spell it right. I think it is fun to ask others just how they pronounce Heuchera. Most folks just pick them up and buy them and never say the name.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 10:17PM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

I'm not in the business of saying anything is right or wrong in everyday use. My degree is in linguistics so I just find language evolution in action intriguing.

A family favourite was the gentleman who had a conversation with my father about his Hygeraniums. They were blue flowered due to the local acid soil.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 7:37AM
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scmatlanta_gw(8a - Athens GA)

One asclepia, two asclepias
Rhodea (much more common than Rohdia, I think)
Foilage - examples of metathesis, floral UK!

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 7:58AM
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Because I am a speech therapist, I too find this thread fun. (Was that a grammatically correct sentence? My favorite one from childhood was "forcynthia."

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 9:40AM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

Just spotted this one - Gravity Beauty - brilliant name for a Clematis. Maybe a trailing type? ;-)

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 11:28AM
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paul_(z5 MI)

A question for you, Flora ...

A friend of mine mentioned to me some time ago that he had heard on NPR (a radio station that amongst its various programs has, on occasion, trivia or tidbits of interest) that the English used to speak with more of what we would call an American accent. But due to a high ranking noble (can't recall if he heard that it was king, queen, prince, or just what) who had a speech impediment or affection, it became fashionable and therefore eventually the norm to speak with the accent they currently do. I have been curious as to the veracity of that information. On the one hand, I could see how it could happen. On the other, I could see where that might be just an "urban myth". With your having a background in linguistics, I thought I might prevail upon you for input.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 12:08PM
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Re the influence of "a high ranking noble'; sound more like a fairty tale than an "urban myth".

Understandably, the English language changed (evolved, if you like) over time, in different locations, at different rates as a function of things like relative population sizes and the degrees of isolation involved.

The part about the influence of a royal personage sounds more like Hans Christian Andersen.

This post was edited by SunnyBorders on Sun, Aug 3, 14 at 15:11

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 2:34PM
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karin_mt(4 MT)

"I think it is fun to ask others just how they pronounce Heuchera.

Easy. I pronounce it "coral bells."

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 3:10PM
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Campanula UK Z8

the tricky crocus....crocuses, crocii

and I confess to a certain amazement at the adoption of gender for certain plants. Roses are particular targets with definite gender assignments for the obvious named roses (Madame Gregoire Staechelin,, Ulrich Brunner Fils....but 'Peace', 'Escapade' and so forth, even species, are frequently (and confidently) assigned as he and she. Much as I love roses, they remain an 'it' to me.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 6:14PM
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And since roses have bisexual flowers they're all both Mr and Ms anyway.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 8:35PM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

I agree with sunnyborders - the accent thing sounds like nonsense to me. I've heard the same story in relation to the lisped 'C' in European Castilian. And I'm with Campanula on anthropomorphism in relation to plants.

Another I just remembered seeing - 'pivot' bushes. Handy for making a living gate perhaps.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 3:46AM
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Cute, Floral.

It's fun to laugh.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 9:34AM
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I was in a nursery garden and overheard another customer loudly ask her friend "is that a PEAR-a-NIGH-al?" It actually took me a minute to realize she was just saying "perennial" and I wasn't about to discover some cool new plant.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 6:43PM
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I just got it, Ruth.


Even if a lot of non-gardeners can pronounce "perennials", so many of them are quite misinformed as to what they are.

The various myths include, among others, that perennials are maintenance free and that perennials don't die.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 1:10PM
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