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Botanical Geography

Flower names often get to the "roots" of the geographical origin.

botanical illustrations

Photo: Franz Bley & H. Berdrow

Our native Aster novi-belgii means ‘of the Netherlands', a region which today is called New York.

The geographic origin of many of the flowers we grow is specified in many of their botanical names.

Of course, as Stearn in his book Botanical Latin reminds his readers, many of the regions specified by Linnaeus and other early authors have different names and boundaries today.

It is useful to remember too that genitive Latin endings are used frequently. Thus our native Aster novi-belgii means ‘of the Netherlands’, a region which today is called New York.

Back to the “Roots”

Also the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature recommends that words that denote locations should be adjectives and end in “insis” as in londonensis, which means pertaining to London, or “anus” as in africanus, or “icus” such as sibiricus.

Modern adjectives usually are seen with the ending just noted. For example, californicus, americanus, mexicanus, quebeconsis, australiensis.

Sometimes the ending “cola” which means “inhabitants of”, will be designated “nubicola” meaning “a dweller among clouds” or “arenicola, “a dweller in sand.

Stearn says that some botanical place names actually have persisted from Roman times, others originated in the Middle Ages, and the rest are modern terms that are treated grammatically as if there were indeed Latin.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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