Happy October, gentle readers!  This is probably my favorite Fall month.  Locust trees are all aglow in yellow, and other trees are beginning to shed their summer greens for their true, brazen colors.  What could be more beautiful?  Fall’s flora and fauna put on one last spectacular show before winter’s curtain call.  Enjoy it, savor it, embrace it as it’s a fleeting season.  The best ones always are.

We’re all pretty well adept at recognizing and referring to plants by their common, widely accepted names, except when you’re married to a lifelong plant enthusiast and landscaper.  I can’t really say it’s an act in frustration, but when it comes to proper botanical names, I am somewhat at a loss.  They are difficult to remember and even more difficult to pronounce.  So why, oh why, can’t we just call a Coralbell by its delicate, melodic name rather than its botanical name, Heuchera?  Bless you.

The reason, I have to admit, is difficult to dispute.  As you roam this great country of ours, you may come to find that common plant names are regional or worse yet, we may mistakenly refer to a group of plants by one name.  What we may know as a dandelion may be referred to as canker wort, Irish daisy, puffball, or wild endive in other regions or even other countries.  Basically, botanical names are a way to clarify and remain consistent, and thanks to the great work of Swedish botanist, Carl Linnaeus, we have such a system.  Mr. Linnaeus helped popularize the binomial naming system.  In other words, plants have two names, made up of the genus and species.  Some plants may even have three names, which refer to the variety or cultivar.  I know it sounds overwhelming, and it kind of is, but if you break down the names into palatable portions, it begins to be a little less intimidating.  Let’s dissect the common name Chatterbox Coralbells:

Genus:  Heuchera

Species:  sanguinea

Cultivar:  Chatterbox

Proper botanical name:  Heuchera sanguinea ‘Chatterbox

Ok, maybe that’s not the best example, but the intimidation of botanical (Latin) names is slowly waning, right?  Well, even if it isn’t, at least you learned something new today, right?  Please refrain from cursing Mr. Linnaeus’s name or mine for that matter 🙂

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

– From William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”.

Best wishes,

Kim Sweeney

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