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
5 ratings

Friday - September 02, 2011

From: Plainville, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: General Botany
Title: Dictionary of botanical names
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I am looking for an online resource that will tell me what the botanical names mean, for example, Cornus florida. Why is it named that? Surely somewhere there is information that explains the meaning of each. I have a list of botanical names I would like to look up. Thank you for your time and consideration.

ANSWER:

Here are several sites with definitions of botanical names:

California Plant Names: Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations.  A Dictionary of Botanical and Biographical Etymology

Dictionary of Botanical Epithets

Botanary on Dave's Garden webpage.

The Meaning of Latin Plant Names from the SeedSite.

This next link is a group of short biographies of people whose names appear in the botanical names of Eastern Sierra plants:

Who's in a Name?

These last two links tells how the Latin names are formed:

Botanical Binomials — What Do Plant Names Mean?

What Scientific Names of Plants Mean

Finally, here are three excellent paper resources:

Gledhill, David.   The Names of Plants.  4th edition.  2008.  Cambridge University Press.  Older editions often can be found at secondhand book stores.

Stearn, William.  Botanical Latin.  4th edition.  2004.  Timber Press.

Borror, Donald.  Dictionary of Word Roots and Combining Forms.  1960.  McGraw-Hill.

 

 

More General Botany Questions

Looking for leaves of milkweed plants for experiment
February 09, 2008 - I am an undergraduate chemistry student at the University of Portland and want to perform an experiment using milkweed leaves. How would I get milkweed leaves at this time of year? Any help you can p...
view the full question and answer

Manzanita struggling in CA
March 01, 2012 - I live in Monterey, CA and I have had a manzanita (either Dr. Hurd or Mt. Hood) growing successfully in my yard for about 4 years. This fall all the leaves turned brown and brittle. I am not sure if d...
view the full question and answer

Comments on white-flowered Mountain Laurel from Austin
December 23, 2012 - Following up on the August 23, 2012, question from Driftwood about the white-flowering mountain laurel, I have found a few more leads to explore. First, there are four more images of white-flowering m...
view the full question and answer

Are Native Cultivars As Beneficial to Wildlife?
September 02, 2015 - I am working on adding more native plants to my small acreage. I would like to know if using a selection or cultivar of a native species is as likely to have wildlife benefits as using a randomly prop...
view the full question and answer

Black Walnut tree in LA
March 12, 2012 - I was just given a black walnut tree and am trying to determine where to place it. I’ve read on your site that “Certain plants will not grow under Black Walnut trees because of the juglones that the ...
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