Ever since the evolution of languages, different plants and trees have been given names to distinguish one plant from the other. The nomenclature is essential for general use for a gardener‘s catalogue and for botanists. The sources of their names is often very interesting and hence worth-knowing. Some names have simply been borrowed from other languages, while some others take the name of the places of their origin. Some plants have been named according to their shapes and colours while others owe their names to some unique features. Some may have come after the names of their discoverers. Over the years even the names have undergone changes. The origin of names of some important plants and trees are discussed below. The pine tree got its name from the Latin word pinus that means ‘a point‘. The spruce tree should really be called the Prussia Tree because it was long thought to be a native of Prussia. The name gradually got corrupted to ‘spruce‘. A buttercup is a flower, which has the shape of a cup and the colour of butter. Lady‘s mantle was the name given when ladies wore collars that were pleated with serrated edges like the leaves of the plant. Honeysuckle has flowers rich in nectar and is, therefore, popular with bees collecting substance for making honey. The magnolia has been named after Pierre Magnol of France who was a professor of Botany. The cypress is called so because it was first brought from the island of Cyprus. In Madagascar, there is a tree called, ‘The Travellers Tree‘. It has large, fan-shaped leaves that catch the rainwater and the passing travellers sometimes quench their thirst with this water. The barber plant has been named so because the natives of Orient used to rub its leaves on their faces to check the beard from growing. The names dandelion comes from the French words dent de lion because the leaves of this plant resemble the teeth of a lion. Thyme comes from the Latin word thymus that means to sacrifice; the Romans used to burn this plant on their altars. A plant called ‘self-heal‘ got its name because it was thought to have a healing effect on wounds. Since carpenters are supposed to cut wood with sharp tools more often than other people, this plant is also called carpenter‘s herb. The farm workers used this plant as a bandage and hence it has two other names also — hook-heal and sickle-wart. The names of many plants often carry a warning. ‘Deadly nightshade‘ is a poisonous plant that grows among the ruins supposedly haunted by ghosts and evil spirits.
top of page
bottom of page