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

Herbarium locations for Bifora americana
May 12, 2007 - Dr Hampton: I am trying to find specific locations of populations of Bifora americana (prairie bishop). Apparently, many collections of this species have been made in the Dallas-Ft Worth area as we...
view the full question and answer

Plants named for Thomas Drummond
February 09, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Please send list of plants discovered and named for Thomas Drummond.
view the full question and answer

Flower color in shooting stars (Dodecatheon meadia)
February 25, 2010 - Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon meadia) come in the colors white, lavender and purple in the eastern U.S. Is this just genetic variability or does soil chemistry affect the flower color?
view the full question and answer

Difference between class notes and size notes on website
August 09, 2012 - I enjoy using the native plant database in planning my flower beds. However, I don't know the difference between Class notes and size notes. Can you help me out?
view the full question and answer

History of hybrid Hibiscus Davis Creek from Cary NC
August 22, 2010 - Re: Hibiscus Davis Creek. Can you tell me this hybrid's history? H. coccineus H. militaris perhaps?
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