24 December 2010

More plant names and their origins as promised

Our backyard swamp magnolia


Magnolias were named for the French botany professor Pierre Magnol who lived 1638 to 1715. Our swamp magnolia, or Sweet Bay, Magnolia virginiana, of course was first identified in Virginia (ergo Virginiana).

It was planted in our yard for the benefit of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly.


Rudbeckia Chocolate Orange

Rudbeckia was named for the Swedish professor Olof Rudbeck (1660-1702) - the elder, not the son. Olof the elder was Bishop Johannes Rudbeckius' son and the father of botanist Olof the younger. Rudbeck's career was human anatomy and linguistics, but he was  interested in botany, establishing Rudbeck's Garden.
I grew the Chocolate Orange ones in the photo (seeds from Ivy Garth) and by the end of the summer they reseeded. The offspring reverted to having smaller, but equally beautiful and durable flowers.


Hollyhock, Alcea or Althea Malvaceae


Hollyhocks grow semi-wild in our garden. Once you have a bush that flowers, the seeds are eaten by birds and squirrels and the plants come up everywhere you have decent soil. They are biennial so the first year all you'll see is a green plant about a foot tall. If it's left in place, the next year you'll have a six or 8 foot tall flowering beauty.

The common name, hollyhock comes from the Middle English word holihocke. The Malvaceae origin is: Malva, the Latin for mallow from the Greek malache or malakos. The Greek reference refers to the skin ointment made from its seeds.

The webpage for the Robert Freckmann Herbarium at the Univ of Wisconsin has fascinating pages on malva and other plants at this link.

I find the plant names and their origins fascinating - similar to others finding family geneology endlessly interesting.

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