Lost in Translation

First some odds and ends:

I recently discovered a great weather blog which give a very in depth but accessible look at the factors affecting Southern California weather.  I’ve been getting sick of the NOAA site and daily predictions for sun and wind.  This blog gives a more “macro” outlook and has plenty of info regarding the possibility of El Nino later this year.

OVLC Spring Plant Sale went great, thanks to everyone who came and purchased plants.

On to today’s business.  I am not a fan of identifying plants by their scientific names.  Eggheads invent these unwieldy mouthfuls, which often have little to do with the plant, and then they go and change them.  Then they change them back.  Then they add a syllable, but change the family.  Honestly, get a life, leave well enough alone.

Some names are tributes to either the discoverer or a mentor of a discoverer. I happen to like the ones based on Greek.  I always pronounce them wrong, accent is usually on the second syllable.

One of my favorite plant ID books is Nancy Dale’s which can be had for a song on Amazon.  She includes a brief discussion of the origins of the scientific name with each plant.  My favorite online resource is associated with the CalFlora site.

Brought my camera along for a hike from Old Baldwin Road last week and here are some of my favorite scientific names:

Danaus plexippus snacking on an Asclepias fascicularis

Danaus plexippus snacking on an Asclepias fascicularis

That’s a monarch larvae on a milkweed.  Danaus was the great-grandson of Zeus, and Plexippus was one of his 50 nephews.  Milkweed is named for the Greek god of healing Asklepios.

Salvia mellifera

Salvia mellifera

Black sage.  Salvia is from Latin ‘salvio’, meaning “I am well”.  Mellifera means “honey-bearing”

Sambucus mexicana

Sambucus nigra

Elderberry, Sambucus is Greek for “sambuke” which was an instrument made from elderberry.  This is the first scientific name I ever memorized.  Had something to do with the liquor Sambuca, which is gross.

Heliotropium curassavicum

Heliotropium curassavicum

Wild heliotrope.  ‘Helio’ is Greek for sun, and ‘trope’ meaning turning.  Many flowers in the Borage family tend to turn towards the sun.

Solanum xantii

Solanum xanti

Nightshade.  Solanum is Latin for “quieting”, referring to the narcotic properties of some members of the family.  Xantus was a Hungarian botanist.

Camissoniopsis bistorta

Camissoniopsis bistorta

California sun cup.  Chamisso was a Prussian botanist, bistorta is from ‘bis’ twice, and ‘tortus’, twisted.  Refers to the corkscrew shape of the fruits.

Dendromecon rigida

Dendromecon rigida

Bush poppy.   Dendro is Greek for ‘tree’ and mekon is ‘poppy’.  Duh.

Eucrypta chrysanthemifolia

Eucrypta chrysanthemifolia

Eucrypta is from Greek, “Eu” means ‘true’ and “crypta” means secret.  Refers to the hidden seeds at maturity.

Pectocarya linearis

Pectocarya linearis

Slender pectocarya (a new one for me).  Pecto is Greek for ‘combed’ and carya is ‘seed’, referring to the comb-like appearance of the seeds.

Cryptantha clevelandii

Cryptantha clevelandii

White forget-me-not.  As we learned 25 seconds ago, ‘crypt’ is secret, or hidden.  ‘Antha’ is a variation of anthos, which means flower.  The first species discovered of this genus had, you guessed it, tiny, almost hidden flowers which self-fertilized without opening.  Clevelandii is a salute to the great state of Ohio.  No seriously, Daniel Cleveland was a botanist who discovered and named a ton of species in the San Diego area.  The forest, however, was named for the two-time (nonconsecutive of course) 19th century president.

Thanks for reading, in NYC this week, see what the Brooklyn spring has to offer us.

 

 

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