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
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

Comments on article in Austin paper
January 22, 2012 - Why can't we comment on your piece in the Statesman? It says no comments possible at the bottom.
view the full question and answer

What happens when plant shoot apex is removed from Nashville TN
April 23, 2011 - What happens to the plant when a shoot apex is removed?
view the full question and answer

Where do snake herb and skeleton-leaf goldeneye get their names?
October 05, 2014 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Where does snake herb, and skeleton leaf goldeneye get their names from? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Disappearing sunlight in Phoenix, AZ
September 29, 2009 - I live in a condo in Phoenix, AZ with a north facing patio that goes out about 10 feet and is 20 feet wide. During the summer months there is a span of 1 foot in the front that goes the 20 foot length...
view the full question and answer

Will lead accumulate in the flower nectar of plants used for phytoremediation
January 16, 2009 - I'm attempting to phytoremediate lead in my garden with mustard and/or sunflowers. I also keep bees. I understand that lead is sequestered in roots and stalks. Would the nectar also be contaminate...
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