Gordon, S. (Ed.). 2005. Plant Names Explained. David and Charles, Newton Abbot. ISBN 0-7153-2188-9.
Paperback. 14x22cm. 224 pages.
In many respects this is the book I was hoping to see when I first looked at the book Botanical Latin
which is the classic and renowned work on the subject. Botanical Latin
is, no doubt, and indispensable aid to students of botany and taxonomy who need an academic grounding in their subjects, but large parts of the text are of limited interest to the gardener. By contrast, this book is written with the amateur gardener and naturalist in mind
this book is written with the amateur gardener and naturalist in mind.
Thousands of 'specific ephithets' (that's the second, descriptive, part of a latin name) are listed in alphabetical order, so looking them up is easy. You will be able to look up, for example, palustris and see that it means 'of marshes'
You will be able to look up, for example, palustris
and see that it means 'of marshes' and there are examples of several plant names which use this specific epithet, for example Caltha palustris
(kingcup) and Calla palustris
(water arum), suddenly become more resonant and memorable.
Useful introductory sections explain how the nomenclature we use today was derived and how it is used in practice. This, to the uninitiated, will unravel the mysteries of how hybrids, cultivars, forms and so on are named: suddenly the seemingly anarchic world of botanical names can appear a little more structured - more accessible. The book is also useful for those interested in animal names, since more or less the same system of nomenclature is applied to them
The book is also useful for those interested in animal names, since more or less the same system of nomenclature is applied to them. So for example understanding, as we now do, the meaning of palustris
, the scientific name of America's marsh wren - Cistothorus palustris
- doesn't seem half as daunting!