The Garden Guide

Book: Gardening Science - the Vegetable Kingdom
Chapter: Chapter 1: Plant Nomenclature

The generic names of plants

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990. The generic names of plants are usually formed from the Greek, and they sometimes express a quality belonging to the plant; as, for instance, the Chimonanthus, or winter-flower, is so called because it blossoms in December; and the Nemophila, which signifies a lover of the woods, has received that name because generally, in a wild state, it is found under the shade of trees. In some cases the generic name of a plant alludes to the country of which the plant is a native; as the Araucaria is so called from the Araucarians, a people of Chili, in whose country the tree grows. But by far the greater number of generic names are given in honour of botanists and other persons whom the namer of the plant has wished to compliment. It may easily be supposed that, as these appellations are only proper names with Latin terminations, they are sometimes extremely barbarous, and hence they have been sometimes so much changed as to render it difficult to recognise the person from whom the genus received its appellation. Thus, without explanation, no one would guess that Gundelia was derived from Gundelscheimer; or that Goodenia was introduced by Sir J. E. Smith to commemorate the name of his friend Dr. Goodenough. Another difficulty in naming plants after persons has arisen in the case of the French botanists, from some of them having a second or territorial name in addition to their proper name, and from plants being sometimes named after one and sometimes after the other. Hence, Pittonia was applied to the plant consecrated to Pitton de Tournefort; but Linnï¾µus preferred the name by which alone he was known out of his country, or in learned language, and called the same genus Tournefortia. A fanciful analogy between botanists and the plants named after them was made by Linnï¾µus in the Critica Botanica. Thus, Bauhinia, named after the two distinguished brothers John and Caspar Bauhin, has a two-lobed or twin leaf. Scheuch-zeria, a grassy alpine plant, commemorates the two Scheuchzers, one of whom excelled in the knowledge of alpine productions, the other in that of grasses.