En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Wednesday - March 16, 2005

From: Austin, TX
Region: Other
Topic: General Botany
Title: Smarty Plants on plant names
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I want to learn what the scientific names of plants indicate about the plant physiology, its namer, its evolutionary relation to other plants, etc. Could you give a print or web source for looking up the meaning of plant names?

ANSWER:

A good place to start is by reading The Rules for Naming Plants on the Brooklyn Botanic Garden web page. Here are several internet sites that give meanings for some botanical/scientific names: Glossary of Roots of Botanical Names from The Garden Gate, Botanical Binomials - What Do Plant Names Means? from Tom Clothier's Garden Walk and Talk; Dictionary of Botanical Epithets from Winternet.com; and finally the specialized Dictionary of Carnivorous Plant Names. You can find more by "googling" on "plant names dictionary".

Several print references come to mind. You might be able to find these at your local library, bookstore, or on line at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

1. Borror, Donald J. 1960. Dictionary of Word Roots and Combining Forms. Palo Alto, CA: Mayfield Publishing Co.

2. Gledhill, David. 2002. The Names of Plants. 3d ed. Cambridge University Press.

3. Stearns, William T. 2002. Stearn's Dictionary of Plant Names for Gardeners. 2nd ed. Oregon: Timber Press.
 

More General Botany Questions

Night-flowering plant that blooms every five years
September 20, 2008 - What plant flowers every five years at night?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on Hypogon
March 22, 2005 - How many sides does a hypogon have?
view the full question and answer

Cold hardiness zones for plants from Jackson MS
October 02, 2010 - How to search the plant database by cold-hardiness zone? Is it possible to do combination search by zone (not just state?) With the information provided with plant, I do not see the zone listed. Ma...
view the full question and answer

Effectiveness of house plants for removing household air pollution
January 30, 2006 - I have heard that there is a combination of house plants that will increase the oxgyen in your home. Could you please tell me the names of these plants? I think there are a group of four of them. ...
view the full question and answer

Plant Groups
September 22, 2009 - What are ways to group plants?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center