Thank the Romans for Latin Names not Linnaeus

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‘What else did the Romans do for us’ asks Monty Python. ‘All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us? ‘ Well if you include Latin as a language they gave us modern gardening nomenclature.

What can Latin Names Tell Gardeners

  • Latin names are full of information and can hide the secrets of where the plant is found or to which areas it is endemic. eg Cyclamen persicum, the Persian cyclamen.
  • The name can show the  colour,  albicans or albus flowers will be whitish, virdis or virens will be green.
  • A name prefixed with melano… caulon,  melano… cococus,  will be black, stemmed or berried respectively. Other plants with black features will follow this pattern.
  • Fragrans means propensity for scent often sweet-scented and the best fragrantisimus is likely to be very fragrant
  • Other horticultural information may include; flowering times,natural habitat or fruitfulness- fructifera.
  • Latin for a shady place sylvestris or woodland in the name ending will show where a plant will be happiest.
  • Plants that are named after the shape of their leaves like palmate.
  • The time of year that they flower as in vernalis of spring.
  • Melleus in the name pertains to honey and will likely attract bees and other insects.
  • There are numerous other identifiers and features in Latin based plant names but you just need a learn a few (and a book or PC) to enjoy the skills  of plant selection.

So Monty Python was on the right lines but ‘he is a very naughty boy’ of he doesn’t learn some gardeners Latin.


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