Common names are curious things. While no one would bat an eye about a paper dissecting some arcane point of minutiae regarding Polygonum orientale, it’s difficult to imagine a crotchety old botanist standing before his peers at a professional conference and delivering a serious exposition on “Kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate.” Where botanical names are all about science and rules, common names are about art and whimsy. Botanical names are about the sharing of information; common names are about conversation and pleasant communication. Botanical names are neat and orderly, law-abiding citizens; common names are messy, free-wheeling, teenaged scofflaws.
All of that is a way of saying that “frogfruit” and “fogfruit” are like the old chewing gum ads – they’re “two… two… two mints in one!” OK, Phyla nodiflora is not a mint, it’s in the Verbena family, but both common names are commonly applied to that species and several others related to it. In fact, fogfruit probably even predates frogfruit as a common name by about 100 years (early 1800’s for fogfruit vs. early 1900’s for frogfruit). Most likely, frogfruit arose as a common name from a mispronunciation or misspelling of fogfruit. I have in my mind the scene of a copy editor looking at “fogfruit” and saying, “That can’t be right! What the heck is a fogfruit? It must be, oh, I don’t know, maybe frogfruit! Yep, that must be it. Frogfruit makes a lot more sense! Set the type, boys!” Even today, if you do a Google search for each common name, you’ll get more “hits” for fogfruit than you will for frogfruit. Neither common name makes much sense to me and I’m still looking for a good (non-fanciful) explanation for the origin of either one. My personal preference is for the common name, Turkey-tangle, but that’s another issue altogether.
Identification of plant purchased as desert willow February 29, 2008 - Purchased a plant at Chappel Hill, Texas and was told it was a desert willow. The bloom cluster and pink color are very similar, but leaves resemble the wisteria. Very pretty. What is it? Can it be r... view the full question and answer
Plant identification July 22, 2013 - I've lived at my apartment complex for a year now and this current spring/summer I noticed the grounds keeper leaving a fern like plant that is approx. 1-2 feet tall and approx. 1 foot wide. It's le... view the full question and answer
plant identification, Portulaca pilosa, Kiss-me-quick October 02, 2007 - There is a small plant with clusters of red-purple flowers and tubular succulent leaves on branching stems I found in the flower boxes at the top of the look-out tower there at the center. I forgot to... view the full question and answer
Purple wildflowers near Lake Tahoe November 30, 2009 - I have been tasked with a challenge to find the plant that is "dark purple wild flowers at Lake Tahoe and are a magnificent thing to see in the fall. Interestingly, these wild mountain lake flowers w... view the full question and answer
Existence of plant named May 30, 2006 - My mother's middle name is Orabelle - "beautiful seacoast." Some variations are "Orabel" and "Ord." Is there a plant that is so named and where might I be able to purchase it? I live in Norf... view the full question and answer