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

Is Viburnum rufidulum monoecious or dioecious?
July 28, 2014 - Is Viburnum rufidulum monoecious or dioecious? Your database does not address this for most plants.
view the full question and answer

Why plants grow in very hot or very cold areas from Edison NJ
October 06, 2013 - Why can some plants grow where very cold or very hot?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on Wildflowerology
July 08, 2005 - I know there is a word for everything, but I can't find the offical word for the study of wildflowers. Wildflowerology just doesn't sound right. Can you help?
view the full question and answer

Key for Verbesina virginica
June 16, 2014 - Are the stems of Verbesina virginica hairy? My in-laws have what I believe is Verbesina virginica (blooms in September here in VA) and another wild flower that blooms before it and is yellow. I'd l...
view the full question and answer

Why do sunflowers turn towards the sun?
February 27, 2006 - Why do sunflowers turn towards the sun?
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center