Admit It! You Called It “Cotton Easter” Once, Too

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Maybe Metasequoia glyptostroboides rolls off your tongue now, but there was a time when you felt intimidated by botanical Latin.

When I opened up the Dirr book for my first woody plants class, I laughed out loud.  Yeah, right!  Now I try to work phrases like Ceratostigma plumbaginoides and Hakonechloa macra into the conversation.  Here are some plant names that trip up newbie horticulturists and a few that make experienced ones stumble, too.

cotoneaster cotton easter

Cotoneaster.  It sure looks like “cotton Easter.”  Alas, it is no fluffy-tailed bunny reference, but rather, “Kuh-TONE-e-ass-ter.”  Similarly, Cotinus is not “cotton-us,” but “ko-TINE-us.”


 

liriope botanical latin

Liriope.  This one has many aliases:  LEER-e-ope, LEER-e-o-pee, lilyturf, monkeygrass, spider plant.  Call it luh-RYE-o-pee, and leave it at that.


 

botanical latin rhododendron

Rhododendron.  It’s not Rhododendrum, nor is it Liriodendrum for that matter.  But Oxydendrum is correct, not Oxydendron.  Go figure.


 

hamamelis arnold promise or arnolds promise

Hamamelis ×intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’.  Witchhazel.  It’s ‘Arnold Promise’, not ‘Arnold’s Promise’.  I have seen and heard it referenced both ways, but only recently realized the possessive is not correct.  My bad.


 

forsythia for cynthia botanical latin

Forsythia.  It’s forsythia, not “for Cynthia.”  Though, if you were giving one to your friend Cynthia, that would be totally acceptable.


 

prunus cistina christina plum

Prunus ×cistena.  Purple-leaf sand cherry or purple-leaf plum.  It’s cistena, not “Christina.”  Again, if you give one to your friend Christina, I guess you could call it Christina’s plum.  But why would you?  I mean, purple-leaf ninebark is such a better plant.  But I digress…


 

viburnum nudum winterthur how to pronounce

Viburnum nudum ‘Winterthur’.  This one I am still working on.  According to Winterthur’s web site, it is not pronounced how it looks, but as “Winter-tour.”  I feel kind of snobbish pronouncing it that way.


 

juniper perfecta jupiter

Juniper.  If you still call it “Jupiter,” you’re giving yourself away as not too conversant in plants.  Your landscaper will likely charge you double.


 

botanical latin thuja plicata

Thuja.  Arborvitae.  It is pronounced “THOO-ya,” not “THOO-ja.”  Sometimes in English gardening books you will see Buddleja instead of the American English Buddleia.  Same thing.  “BUD-lee-yuh.”


 

botanical latin hibiscus

Hibiscus.  Hibiscus, not hibiscuits.  Though “hibiscuits” is really cute.


 

botanical latin malus mall us male us

Malus.  Apple or crabapple.  For years I have got this one wrong.  It’s not “MAL-us,” but “MALE-us.”


 

This list is rounded out by a few plant names that have truly given me a chuckle over the years in the business:  “iguanymous” for “euonymus,” “camel syphilis” for “chamaecyparis,” and my personal favorite, “Miskillus ‘Grisanthemus'” for Miscanthus ‘Gracillimus.”  Did I miss any of your favorites?


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2 Responses

  1. Paul
    Paul at | | Reply

    Once, while perusing the various offerings at a greenhouse, I asked if they had any bromeliads tucked away. The salesperson smugly informed me that I meant to say “bromelaids,” and no they did not.

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