What's In a Plant's Name?

Some of the plant names we see at the nursery, such as Peace Rose, are easy to remember. Others like Cytisus scoparius Burkwoodii make us wonder how to pronounce them.

Many plants were named for the countries where they were originally found. Examples include African violet, Austrian Pine, Kentucky Coffee Tree, New Zealand Spinach and Mexican Marigold.

But how are the rest of plants named?

On Feb 21 at the Tulsa Garden Center, the owner of the Antique Rose Emporium, G. Michael Shoup, told the audience how many of his roses were named.

Over the years, as Shoup, his staff and the Rose Rustlers of Texas went to old homesteads and graveyards taking cuttings to preserve historic plants. They rejuvenate old plants, meet gardeners, and try to grow the old varieties in their greenhouses. Since the roses have been out of production for many decades, they named them as they went.

"Old Gay Hill China" was named after the town where they found it and "Highway 290 Pink Buttons" was named for the location where it was found.

Cytisus scoparius Burkwoodii, commonly known as Burkwood’s Broom is named for Albert and Arthur Burkwood, brothers who were plantsmen in England in the 1900s.

Jane Bath discovered a clove-scented garden pink growing in her neighbor’s yard in Georgia. She took cuttings and gave some to Goodness Grows nursery and the owners named it Dianthus Bath’s Pink. Bath now has her own nursery at Landarts.com

Luther Burbank was the inspiration for the rose named Rosa Burbank. In his lifetime Burbank raised and crossed many roses but he is most famous for the disease resistant potato he hybridized, the Burbank.

Walker’s Low Nepeta or catmint, was found in an English public garden in the town of Walker’s Low.

Henry and Sally Fuller planted gardens full of Phlox. They found one white one in a sea of blue and purple. After digging the plant and growing it they shared cuttings and it became known as Phlox divaricata Fuller’s White.

Arp Beauty Peach is a hybrid from turn-of-the-century Arp, Texas. Madalene Hill Rosemary is named for the woman who found the cold hardy plant, Rosmarinus officinalis Madaline Hill. Hill also discovered Arp Rosemary.

Wall Street Journal garden columnist Allen Lacy discovered an unusual New England aster in his neighborhood. White Flower Farm introduced the plant, Aster Hella Lacy, named for Mrs. Lacy who was known to do the gardening at their home. See:http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/l/allen_lacy/index.html.

A French rose breeder planted the Peace Rose from a single seed in 1939. Fearing its destruction in WWII, Francis Meilland sent seedlings to growers in Italy, Germany and the U.S. It was presented to all 49 delegates at the first United Nations on V-E Day, May 8, 1945.

An employee at Juniper Hill Nursery in Tulsa discovered a new rosemary hybrid growing among the nursery pots. They named it Dorothy in honor of the employee’s grandmother.

Hydrangea arborescens Annabelle is probably the most widely planted variety. Joseph McDaniel, on the faculty of the University of IL found out that the hydragnea was originally discovered in 1910 at a gardener’s home in the town of Anna, IL

Veronica Goodness Grows is an introduction from Goodness Grows Nursery (www.goodnessgrows.com). Owners Marc Richardson and Rick Berry found the new variety growing near Veronica aplina and Veronica spicata. It has also been named Becky and Ryan’s Daisy.

Frank N. Meyer, a plant explorer discovered the now famous Meyer’s lemon. After wandering European gardens, Meyer went to Turkestan, China and Manchuria on behalf of The Department of Agriculture. Meyer is responsible for introducing 2,500 plants now grown in American gardens.

Discover more at www.plantexplorers.com and “Legends In the Garden” by Linda L Copeland and Allan M. Armitage, 2001, Wings Publisher. Short biographies are listed at http://members.tripod.com/~Hatch_L/bioh.html.


Anonymous said…
I, for one, learned a lot from this post. I stumbled it for you. Thanks. Did you see Mike Shoup when he came? I saw him in OKC.~~Dee
Anonymous said…
We heard Shoup in Tulsa at the Garden Center and enjoyed it very much.

We are less rose growers and more lettuce and zinnia growers at our homestead. But it was interesting to hear that his business is based on found plants.

Glad you enjoyed the plant history. I find it endlessly interesting and had to cut the column by half to keep to my space!
Anonymous said…
very good!

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