Latin for Gardeners: What Plant Names Reveal



Potted Succulents And Cacti

Photo by Milada Vigerova

Gardeners are often fonts of unexpected knowledge. From insights into herbal remedies to the best recipes involving produce straight from the garden, people with green fingers often have plenty of useful facts at their disposal. One area where expert gardeners are often more knowledgeable than most is Latin. Yes, that’s right, Latin. The long-forgotten language is kept alive in a few areas in life — and gardening is one of them.

Thanks to Swedish naturalist, Carl Linnaeus, we’ve given plants Latin names since the 1700s. Why? Linnaeus was studying the grouping of plants and found a number of commonalities between certain types. He gradually built on this discovery and decided that Latin was an ideal language for naming plants because he could describe their genus and species with relative ease. In turn, this nomenclature made it easier to group plants based on their characteristics.

Learning a Language Means More than Words

Linnaeus was obviously an expert in the science of plants, but it was also his knowledge of another language that allowed him to come up with the naming system. That’s a lesson we can all learn from. You might not have much use for Latin, but online language learning sites offer plenty of ways to master everything from German to Russian. Using little more than your computer or mobile, you can connect to a network of more than 49,000 online tutors, attend virtual classes, and more.

Put simply, learning a new language is more accessible than ever before and that can open the doors to new ideas, new perspectives on the world, and if you’re anything like Linnaeus, new discoveries. Of course, everyone can’t change the course of history using their knowledge of plants and languages. However, we can at least look at some Latin terms from the world of horticulture and tease out what they mean in English so we can understand the power of languages.

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