Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - January 16, 2008

From: London, England
Region: Other
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources
Title: Source for common names of plants in the United States
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Hello Mr. Plants! I am writing to you on behalf of Carol Sharp who is one of the leading plant and flower photographers here in the UK. We will shortly be making her collections of work available to the US stock photographic market. As such, we need to tag each image with the subjects botanical and common name to allow them to be easily found on a database. As you will probably be aware, there are differences in common names between here and the US, for example, what we in the UK would know as a 'cornflower' would be known as 'bachelors buttons' in the US. This is where I'm hoping you might be able to help us. I am looking for a book/resource which has the UK and US common names for plants to compare. Would you or your colleagues be able to help? Thank you in advance for your advice.

ANSWER:

First of all, you need to realize that many common names are regional and not agreed upon by all; however, we do have some sources that will provide a collection of common names. For plants native to North America your best source would be the USDA Plants Database. This database also includes plants that have been introduced to North America but now commonly occur in many areas—for instance, Centaurea cyanus (garden cornflower).

Another source is the online version of Flora of North America. Not all the botanical families have been put online yet, but those that are there have common names included. Again, this source includes some introduced species. For instance, Centaurea cyanus has a long list of common names associated with it on their entry.

Now, for cultivated garden plants that don't happen to occur in the USDA Plants Database or in Flora of North America, we suggest the following:

1) Botanica: the illustrated A-Z of over 10,000 garden plants and how to cultivate them. 1999. Wellcome Rain Publishers. It has common names from UK, Australia, New Zealand and North America.

2) Sunset's gardening publications. They have "Top Ten Garden Guides" for most areas of the United States.

 

 

 

More Seed and Plant Sources Questions

Rain garden plants at the April Plant Sale
March 31, 2015 - In answering the question about "rain garden" plants on March 20, 2010, you offered a list of plants. Which of these will be offered at the spring sale coming up on April 10-12? Thanks.
view the full question and answer

Junipers for restoring area in Bulverde TX
November 03, 2012 - Are ashe or virginiana junipers for sale around the hill country? I would like to recreate the natural plant life that was bulldozed next to my home. Do you recommend any other types of juniper that ...
view the full question and answer

Source for Anacacho Orchid Seeds
November 22, 2010 - Is there any place in TX that I can ask to send me Anacacho Orchid seeds that I can germinate?
view the full question and answer

Finding a native plant garden designer from Austin
April 10, 2011 - I was at the center today and told to contact you on the website for suggestions on who to call to hire a garden designer to come to my house,lay out a garden and select plants, etc.
view the full question and answer

Plant called Jesus in a Manger from Florence AL
June 10, 2010 - Where can I find a plant called "Jesus in a Manger"?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.