‘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.