Photo: Jessica Lothrop
As the outdoor temperatures cool and our flowering plants are dormant, many gardeners read about plants as a substitute for tending them.
A friend lent me a book titled Botanical Latin by William T Stearn. It would make an excellent gift for any gardener on your list of holiday presents, as it is full of fascinating information about plant names.
I have enjoyed all of it but I love the chapter about the names of colors. The Latin or Greek terms used in a plant’s botanical name often tell us about the different shades of colors.
Thus a plant with lemon colored flowers may be described as “citrus” or “citrinus” reminding us of lemon rind.
When we see the term fulvus, the flower will be a tawny dull yellow and the term luteus denotes a full strong yellow. There are many others too.
Sometimes in a plant’s name, term may denote the color of the foliage rather than the flowers; for example, ‘Aureum’ is a variety of Japanese Maple which has yellow-green spring foliage.
The Greek words “aureus,” and “chryseus,” tell not only the color but also that there is a metallic shine like real gold.
Words such as “electicus” and “sulphureus” easily conjure up specific yellow hues in our minds too. Some yellowish-buff tints even have names that refer to the coats of animals such as camets (camelinus).
Botanical terms are full of nuances like these and what fun it is to read about the many shades of colors of flowers often specified in their botanical names.