En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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

Correct family classification for Allium cernuum
March 19, 2015 - What is the correct family classification for Allium cernuum? I have seen the nodding onion as part of the Liliaceae family on the USDA website and my field guides, but it is in the Alliaceae family i...
view the full question and answer

Monocarpic plants for Indiana
October 06, 2005 - We were in Hawaii this summer and became acquainted with the Silversword. This plant (according to what we were told) blooms only once in it's lifetime (of 50-70 years). Are you aware of any other pl...
view the full question and answer

Liquid glucose as substitute for sunlight from New York City
December 16, 2012 - I am curious to find out whether liquid glucose can be poured as water for mung bean plants as substitute for no sunlight. Is the possible? Will a specific amount of glucose need to be used? Can liqui...
view the full question and answer

Can Condalia hookeri (Brasil or Bluewood condalia) self-pollinate?
May 07, 2014 - Good morning Mr. SP, I see from your description of Condalia hookeri that this species has bisexual flowers. Do you know if it is self-incompatible?
view the full question and answer

Problem With Vegetable Garden Soil
June 09, 2013 - We live in Liberty Hill on 25 acres and we are working to restore native grasses and plants. We are ardent supporters of the Wildflower center. I say this because my question is not "typical" of wh...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center