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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - May 30, 2006

From: Norfolk, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Existence of plant named
Answered by: Joe Marcus and Dean Garrett

QUESTION:

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 Norfolk, Virginia.

ANSWER:

That beautiful name does sound like it should be shared by a lovely flower, but no genus, species, subspecies, or varietal name like that currently exists, according to the International Plant Names Index, a standard reference for looking up scientific plant names.

It seems more likely that a horticultural cultivar would receive an evocative female name, and we did find a mention in an academic journal of a German cultivar of winter rapeseed called Brassica napus ssp. oleifera 'Orabel'. Rapeseed is a plant in the mustard family from which we get canola oil. Unfortunately, the journal only mentioned it in passing as part of a list of German rapeseed cultivars. There was no picture of it and we haven't found more information about it, but it wasn't bred for looks so I doubt it's what you had in mind.

My guess is that there may well have been ornamental cultivars with the name 'Orabelle' or 'Orabel' in the nineteenth century, when those names were more common than they are now. Finding records of that could be daunting, as various kinds of cultivated plants have their own International Cultivar Registration Authority organizations through which new cultivars are registered. It might take contacting some of these Registration Authorities to find out if any cultivars ever carried your mother's name.

For more on plant naming conventions, see this summary.

 

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