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Latin plant names are an undeniable part of our world and business. We use them every day to refer to the plants we grow and sell. When we talk to you about the plants you want, we often use their botanical Latin names. Some plants are only referred to by their Latin names, like Hydrangea and Coleus. But others are more often called by their common names like Japanese Maples, though we might refer to them by their variety name like the Osakazuki above. But many people feel that Latin names are archaic and a giant pain in the you-know-what.

What is the point of botanical Latin and how can you more easily incorporate it into your plant knowledge?

Well, it’s actually useful. Botanical Latin is the international language of plants. No matter what your native language, Latin plant names are universal. The Latin plant names often actually tell you something about the plant, as well. We know that roses are, of course, part of the Rosaceae family. That’s easy enough. But when you know that raspberries, apples and plums are also part of the Rosaceae family, you can start to learn more about all of them, by comparing what they have in common (flower shape, disease susceptibility, etc). The Ericaceae family boasts many attractive members including huckleberry, rhododendron, azalea, blueberries and more. One characteristic of an Ericaceae member is that they like acidic soil. They are often found naturally under conifers that shed acidic needles. Knowing these general facts about what they have in common can help inform your decision when choosing where and how to use them.

Additionally, Latin species names are often descriptive. For example, the word florebundus means “with many flowers.” Thereby, you can conclude that a “Rosa florebundus” is a rose with many flowers on a main stem. The Latin word “contorta” describes a twisting contorted formation as in “Pinus contorta”, the Lodgepole pine or “Corylus avellana contorta” the Twisted Filbert (AKA Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick).  It is actually useful! Here is a handy little guide to some common species names and their definitions: GUIDE.

When it comes to pronunciation, we know it can be tricky and even sound a little ridiculous. But it is still useful and can even be kind of fun. We have been enjoying an online audio pronunciation guide that we wanted to share with you. It’s entertaining and educational! The Fine Gardening website has a great audio guide that we’ve been playing around with. You can find it here. It’s a good reference but it’s also pretty funny. We’ve found a few plant names are pronounced a tad differently than we would pronounce them (like Sarcococca and Helleborus) but overall, they do a pretty good job.

So! Practice your Latin names! Impress your friends, your clients and maybe even a pretty girl. You will be admired near and far.