Nature Notes

The Many Names of Arboretum Plants

By Sydney Chandler

A name can be a great descriptor, provide historical context, or even convey humor. Some people name a variety of important things: pets, kids, cars, musical instruments, and even plants! At the Arboretum, many plant names stand out and enhance our understanding of that plant.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAParrot Tulip

The Parrot Tulip has spunk that lives up to its name. The ruffled serrated edges, thick petals, and bright colors are reminiscent of parrot feathers. They are full of energy and look ready to fly off in a flurry of color!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADarwin Hybrid Tulip

Historical context is also included in the names of the many tulip variety. The name “Tulip” comes from the Peruvian word “tulipan” meaning turban. The flower’s shame resembles the headwear, so the name stuck even as the tulip was exported from the Far East to the Netherlands and beyond.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKamchatka Stonecrop

Sadly, there is no candy growing from the Candytuft plant. But, like the Stonecrop, it’s name provides reference to it’s location of origin. It’s Latin name, Iberis sempervirins, cites its origination in the Spanish region of Iberia. Similarly, Kamchatka Stonecrop originated in the Kamchatka Peninsula in Northeast Russia. The name Stonecrop also alludes to the low maintenance of the plant. Some gardeners joke that only stones require less supervision to maintain!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVulcan Hosta

Great names add entertainment to exploring plants at the Arboretum. Additional examples of clever names include the Vulcan hosta (fresh from a Startrek episode!), the Intermediate Bearded Iris (which has no beard of any size!), and the Single Late Tulip (which appears to be as punctual as any other flower!). Before reading a name sign in the gardens, consider what clever name you might give to a plant!

Sydney Chandler is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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