L-R: Echinocereus engelmannii (Hedgehog cactus), Allium lacunosum var. davisiae (Davis's pitted onion), Viola douglasii (Douglas's violet), Gilia leptantha ssp. leptantha (Fine flower gilia), Cryptantha cinerea var. abortiva (Bownut cryptantha)

California Plant Names:
Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations
An Annotated Dictionary of Botanical and Biographical Etymology
Compiled by Michael L. Charters

  • uechtritzia'na: named for Rudolf Friedrich Karl von Üchtritz (1838-1886), German botanist and entomologist. His father,
      Max von Üchtritz, conducted entomological and botanical studies, and no doubt this is where the young Rudolf’s interests began. He received his early education in Wrocław (Breslau) at the María Magdalena Lyceum and the Matthias Gymnasium, and then studied natural sciences at the University of Breslau from 1858 to 1863, where his botanical classes were mainly in systematics, plant geography and native flora, but terminated them in 1863 due to heart ailments, working subsequently as a private scholar in Breslau. He was largely known for his investigations of plants native to Silesia, although he also
    conducted botanical research in excursions to southern Moravia (1855), the central Carpathians (1856), Tyrol and neighboring areas of Bavaria, Switzerland and northern Italy (1858) as well as to Thuringia, Franconia and Saxony (1860/61). At the age of 23 he began to be afflicted with rheumatism and curtailed his travels in favor of communication. He corresponded with many other botanists in Europe such as Pierre Edmond Boissier, Alexander Braun, Elias Magnus Fries, August Grisebach, Heinrich Gottlieb Ludwig Reichenbach, Veit Brecher Wittrock, Anton Joseph Kerner von Marilaun, George August Schweinfurth and Christian August Friedrich Garcke, and was described by them as 'the man with the long letters.’ He suffered more ill health throughout his lifetime which limited his writings, but he was the author of Botanische Excursion in die Central-Karpathen, Bemerkungen über einige Pflanzen der ungarischen Flora, and Zur Flora Ungarns. He gave valuable materials for Emil Fiek's Flora of Silesia, and made significant contributions to Plantae Romaniae by Ágost Kanitz. Adolf Engler purchased his rxtensive herbarium after his death and donated it to the University of Breslau, which also acquired his beautiful botanical library and manuscripts. He was honored with the genus name Uechtritzia. He was both born and died in Breslau.
  • uh'dei: named for Carl Adolph Uhde (1795-1856), German merchant and plant collector who travelled through Texas and northern Mexico 1849-1855 and wrote about natural features, Mexican political affairs and the history of Europeans in that area. He was born in Brandenburg into an old merchant family, and his father was the first Lord Mayor of Brandenburg. His younger brother was a merchant in Hamburg beginning his career in 1814, and his sister was married to a Consul in Buenos Aires. Uhde was married in London where he became established as a merchant, and his first four children were born there. From 1823 to 1835 he conducted business in Mexico. After moving back to the Stuttgart area where his youngest son was born, he established a museum for his collections acquired in Central and South America.
  • -u'la/u'le: a diminutive adjectival suffix implying slightly.
  • -ulentum/ulentus: a Latin adjectival suffix used to indicate an abundance of or a full or marked development of (e.g. succulentus, "full of juice" from succus, "juice").
  • Ul'ex: the ancient name of this or some similar plant. The genus Ulex was published by Carl Linnaeus in 1753.
  • uligino'sum/uligino'sus: of swamps and wet places.
  • ulmifo'lius: with leaves like genus Ulmus.
  • Ul'mus: the classical Latin name for the elm. The genus Ulmus was published by Carl Linnaeus in 1753.
  • -ulosa: this is a suffix which on some names does not seem to covey much difference from the same names with the -osa suffix, e.g. ramosa and ramulosa, "with many branches." More often though there does seem to be a slight difference as with strigosa, "bearing straight, stiff, appressed hairs" and strigulosa, "minutely strigose;" fruticosa, "shrubby," and fruticulosa, "somewhat shrubby and small;" lanosa, "woolly," and lanulosa, "minutely woolly;" spinosa, "spiny," and spinulosa, "minutely spiny;" and tomentosa, "covered with matted, woolly hair," and tomentulosa, "slightly tomentose." So perhaps the sense of this suffix is usually that of "slightly" or "minutely" or "somewhat." Most commonly there are names for which there appear to be only a single form of the name, like glandulosa, maculosa, villosa, tubulosa, dumosa, tuberosa, corymbosa, racemosa, tumulosa and many other examples.
  • ultraal'sa: from the Latin alsus, "cold, chilly," and ultra, "beyond, in excess." Michael Windham in Harvard Papers in Botany Vol. 11 Issue 1 (July 2006) says: "It is a strikingly distinct species that, when first encountered, elicited a response ("beyond cool") that we Latinized to form the specific epithet. Alternatively the name also reflects the geography on the 'SW side (beyond) of Snow Mt. (a cool place)'."
  • ultrama'fica: the word 'mafic' means 'of or pertaining to rocks rich in dark, ferromagnesian minerals,' so this name may imply that the species which bears it inhabits soils that derive from these kinds of rocks or are rich in these kinds of minerals.
  • ultramonta'na: possibly for high mountains.
  • -ulum/-ulus: either (1) a Latin adjectival suffix used as a diminutive (e.g. patulum, "somewhat spreading," hispidulus, "minutely or somewhat hispid"; dracunculus, "a small dragon," from draco, "dragon"; cardunculus, "a small thistle," from carduus, "thistle"), or (2) a suffix which indicates a tendency or action (e.g. pendulus, "hanging down," from pendere, "to hang"; convolvulus, "twining around," from convolvere, "to roll up, coil up, intertwine").
  • umbella'ta/umbella'tum: refers to the arrangement of the flowers in the inflorescence which arise in a head from a central point, i.e. bearing an umbel. Name derives from the Latin umbel, meaning "umbrella," or umbellatus meaning "equipped with parasols."
  • umbellif'erum: bearing an umbel.
  • Umbellular'ia: pertaining to umbels. The genus Umbellularia was published by Thomas Nuttall in 1842.
  • umbraculor'um: from the Latin umbraculum, "a shady place, bower, arbor," thus meaning "of shady places, bowers, arbors."
  • umbrat'icus: from the Latin umbratus, "shading, spreading over" from umbro, "to shade," and the suffix -icus, a Greek adjectival suffix indicating a state of belonging to, thus according to Jaeger's Source-Book of Botanical Names and Terms meaning "belonging to shade, belonging to seclusion."
  • umbrinel'la: from the Latin umbrinus, "darkened, shady," and the adjectival suffix -ella, which is a diminutive, thus meaning "slightly darkened."
  • umbro'sa: shade-loving.
  • unalascen'sis: refers to Aleutian Islands (Unalaska) where species was first found.
  • uncia'lis: one-twelfth, an inch, from Latin uncia, a twelfth, of unknown application.
  • unda'tus: waved, wavy.
  • underwoodia'na/underwood'ii: named for Lucien Marcus Underwood (1853-1907), American botanist and mycologist. The
      following is quoted from a website of the New York Botanical Garden: “Lucien Marcus Underwood was a botanist, educator, and founding member of the Board of Scientific Directors of the New York Botanical Garden. Underwood was born in New Woodstock, New York 26 October 1853. He obtained his M.S. (1878) and Ph.D. (1879) at Syracuse University. His doctoral thesis, later published, was The Geological Formations Crossed by the Syracuse and Chenango Valley Rail Road. During his graduate education he grew interested in the study of ferns (pteridology). In 1881 he published Our Native Ferns
    and How to Study Them, the first manual of North American ferns. This, as well as Moulds, Mildews, and Mushrooms (1899), achieved a popularity beyond the audience of professional botany. Through the 1880s Underwood taught geology, botany, and natural science at several colleges and universities. Two notable appointments were Syracuse University (1883; 1887-1890) and DePauw University (1890-1895). At Syracuse he began to study the full scope of cryptogamic flora - the mosses, hepatics (liverworts), and fungi. With a Morgan Fellowship at Harvard University (1890) he studied the Sullivant and Taylor hepatic collections. Underwood’s authoritative publications on the hepaticae inspired an exhaustive study of the flora of North America, The Systematic Botany of North America (later known as North American Flora), that evolved into a major collaboration with Nathaniel Lord Britton and many American botanists. Beginning in 1892 Underwood served on the Committee on Nomenclature of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that drafted the "Rochester Code" of botanic nomenclature. The committee elected Underwood as the American delegate to the International Botanic Congress in Genoa, Italy, where he took part in the decision to set 1753 as the date for officially establishing botanical names. In 1896 Underwood succeeded Britton as Professor of Botany at Columbia University and joined the staff of the NYBG. He participated in botanical expeditions to Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, and the Rocky Mountains and was elected to the NYBG Board of Scientific Directors, and served as chairman (1901-07). He contributed a section on pteridophyta to the Britton & Brown Illustrated Flora, was editor of the Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, and assisted in the founding of the Botanical Society of America. Underwood's life ended in tragedy when he took his life in 1907. His sudden death dealt Britton a personal and professional blow, leaving a void in the NYBG directorship. Despite this misfortune, Lucien Underwood is rightly remembered for his scientific accomplishments, his dedication as an educator, and his critical role as a founding member of the NYBG.”
  • undo'sus: same as previous entry, referring to the lower stem leaves which are said to be wavy on the margins.
  • undula'ta/undula'tum/undula'tus: wavy-margined.
  • un'geri: named for Franz Joseph Andreas Nicolas (Nicolaus) Unger (1800-1870), Austrian botanist, paleontologist and
      and plant physiologist. He was born in Gut Amthof near the village of Leutschach in Styria, Austria. He began studying law at the University of Graz but in 1820 moved to Vienna to study medicine. In 1822 he was enrolled at the Charles University in Prague, but the following year he returned to Vienna and completed his medical studies in 1827. He practiced as a physician near Vienna and from 1830 as a court physician in Tyrol. He was named a professor of botany at the University of Graz in 1836 and also taught at the Joanneum (which became the Universalmuseum Joanneum and the Graz University of
    Technology). By 1850 he was professor of plant physiology in Vienna, and travelled in 1852 to Northern Europe and to the Orient. He retired in 1866 and lived the remainder of his life on a farm near Graz.  Wikipedia says: “Unger was one of the major contributors to the field of paleontology, later turning to plant physiology and phytotomy. He hypothesized that (then unknown) combinations of simple elements inside a plant cell determine plant heredity and greatly influenced the experiments of his student Gregor Johann Mendel. Unger was a pioneer in documenting the relationships between soil and plants (1836). Unger is notable for proposing a theory of evolution before Charles Darwin. Unger accepted the transmutation of species. During his time his ideas were widely criticized by those who held religious views. In his book Attempt of a History of the Plant World (1852) he devoted a chapter to the evolution of plants.” He died at Graz.
  • unguicula'ta: Latin for "little red nail or claw" referring to the unusual claw at the base of the petals.
  • uniarista'ta: from the roots uni, "one, single," and aristata, "bearded or furnished with an awn."
  • uniflor'a/uniflor'um: single-flowered.
  • unifo'lium: single-leaved.
  • unilatera'lis: one-sided.
  • uniner'via: with a single nerve.
  • unispica'ta: with a single spike.
  • urceola'ta: urn-shaped.
  • ur'ens: stinging, burning.
  • Urochlo'a: from the Greek oura, "a tail," and chloe or chloa, "grass," in reference to the awns. The genus Urochloa was published by Ambroise Marie François Joseph Palisot de Beauvois in 1812.
  • Uropap'pus: with the pappus having a long tail-like dip. The genus Uropappus was published by Thomas Nuttall in 1841.
  • Urosper'mum: from the Greek oura, "a tail," and sperma, "a seed," alluding to the tail-like beak of the seeds. The genus Urospermum was published by Joannes Antonius Scopoli in 1777.)
  • ursin'a/ursin'um/ursin'us: from the Latin ursus, "a bear," referring to one of a bear's favorite foods, or possibly a reference to being northern, i.e. under the northern constellation called the Great Bear.
  • Ur'tica: from uro, "I burn," alluding to the nettle's sting. The genus Urtica was published by Carl Linnaeus in 1753.
  • urticifo'lia: having nettle-like leaves.
  • uruguayen'sis: of or from Uruguay.
  • urvillea'num: named for Jules Sebastien Cesar Dumont d'Urville (1790-1842), a French explorer, botanist and naval officer
      who explored the south and western Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, and Antarctica. He was born at Condé-sur-Noireau in Lower Normandy. His father was the Bailiff of Condé-sur-Noireau responsible like his ancestors to the court of Condé, and he died when Jules was only six. The child was weak and often sickly. After the death of his father, his mother’s brother, the Abbot of Croisilles, took charge of his education, teaching him Latin, Greek, rhetoric and philosophy. From 1804 Dumont studied at the lycée Impérial in Caen. In the library of Caen, he read the Encyclopédistes and the many reports of
    travel of Bougainville, Cook and Anson, and he became passionate about these matters. At the age of 17 he failed the physical tests of the entrance exam to the École Polytechnique and decided instead to enlist in the Navy, entering the French Naval Academy at Brest in 1807. At the time the French Navy was blockaded in ports by the British, and Dumont spent much of the early years studyng languages, and was promoted to Ensign in 1812. He already spoke, in addition to Latin and Greek, English, German, Italian, Russian, Chinese and Hebrew. And during his later travels in the Pacific, thanks to his prodigious memory, he would acquire some knowledge of an immense number of dialects of Polynesia and Melanesia. Meanwhile, ashore at Toulon, he learned about botany and entomology in long excursions in the hills of Provence, and he studied in the nearby Naval Observatory. In 1814 he undertook his first short navigation of the Mediterranean Sea, and in 1819 he sailed on a hydrographic survey of the Greek islands. The Columbia Encyclopedia entry on D'Urville reads as follows: "While on duty (1819-20) in the E. Mediterranean, he saw and recognized the importance of the newly discovered Venus of Milo and was influential in having the Louvre secure it.” In 1822 he sailed aboard the Coquille on a mission to survey the Falklands, Tahiti and other Pacific islands, and New Holland (W. Australia), eventually bringing back to France specimens of more than 3,000 species of plants, 400 of which were previously unknown, enriching moreover the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle in Paris with more than 1,200 specimens of insects, covering 1,100 insect species including 300 previously unknown. In 1826-1829 he commanded the Astrolabe (which was actually the Coquille renamed in honour of one of the ships of Jean François de Galaup, Comte de Lapérouse) in a voyage around the world, searching for the ill-fated 1788 La Pérouse expedition. He explored Fiji, Tonga and many other islands of Oceania, the New Zealand and New Guinea coasts, and the Moluccas. He identified the site of La Pérouse's shipwreck in Vanikoro in the Solomon Islands and collected numerous remains of his boats. As a botanist and cartographer, Dumont d'Urville left his mark on New Zealand. He gave his name to the genus of seaweeds Durvillaea, which includes southern bull-kelp; the seaweed Grateloupia urvilleana; the species of grass tree Dracophyllum urvilleanum; the shrub Hebe urvilleana and the buttercup Ranunculus urvilleanus. His health was by now weakened by years of a poor diet, and he suffered from kidney and stomach problems and from intense attacks of gout. From 1829 to 1837 he was on shore duty, writing the reports of his travels, and his irascibility due to the gout had lessened his standing with the Navy, but he dreamed of a third Pacific voyage akin to Cook’s, and his proposal was accepted by the King, although he was ordered to make the South Magnetic Pole his destination. The Astrolabe sailed with the Zélée in 1837 and although unhappy at first Dumont soon foresaw the possible advantages of polar exploration that could put France on a par with the United States and Britain. After reaching the Strait of Magellan, pack ice began to impede further southern travel and conditions on board became increasingly worse with many of the crew having fallen ill with scurvy, and Dumont in February 1838 recognized that they were not going to able to reach the Farthest South recorded by James Weddell in 1823, and so they headed for Chile to recuperate. The remainder of 1838 and 1839 were spent exploring the islands of Polynesia and in December reached Tasmania. After replacing crewmembers lost to illness, the two ships in January 1840 once again headed south to find the South Magnetic Pole, crossed the Antarctic Circle, penetrated the ice pack south of New Zealand, and made landfall on one of the Dumoulin Islands where they raised the French flag, calling the land beyond Adelie Land, a name that honored his wife Adèle Pepin. In February they conducted experiments and announced the discovery of the Magnetic Pole, thus achieving one of the goals of the expedition before returning to France. Dumont d'Urville was promoted to Rear Admiral and was awarded the Gold Medal of the Société de Géographie (Geographical Society of Paris). He then took over the writing of the report of the expedition, Voyage au pôle Sud et dans l'Océanie sur les corvettes l'Astrolabe et la Zélée 1837–1840, which was published between 1841 and 1854 in 24 volumes, plus seven more volumes with illustrations and maps. In May 1842 he and his family boarded a train from Versailles to Paris, the locomotive and train cars derailed and caught fire, and Dumont and his family all perished. It was the first French railway accident and the deadliest in the world at the time, causing between 52 and 200 deaths. The accident led the French to abandon the practice of locking passengers in their carriages. Dumont d’Urville’s name is on a number of seas, islands and glaciers. His work resuled in extensive revisions of existing charts and discovery or redesignation of island groups.
  • urvil'lei: see previous entry.
  • usitatis'simum: from the Latin usitatus, "customary, common, familiar," from usitor, "to use often, to be in the habit of using," and the -issimum suffix which conveys the sense of "most or very," thus this would be "most or very customary, common or familiar." Stearn's Dictionary of Plant Names gives "most useful" as the meaning, but "most used" and "most useful" don't exactly have the same sense so I'm not sure about this.
  • usita'tus: see previous entry.
  • Uster'ia: named for Paul Usteri (1768-1831), Swiss physician, botanist, publicist and politician. He was born in Zurich and
      received his medical doctorate from the University of Göttingen. From 1789 to 1798 he worked as an instructor at the Zurich medical institute, and he was also overseer of the botanical garden for the Naturforschenden Gesellschaft in Zürich (Society of Natural Sciences in Zurich). In 1787, with Johann Jakob Römer, he founded the botanical journal "Magazin für die Botanik". In 1790 he published the treatise "Delectus opusculorum botanicorum". As a taxonomist he circumscribed the plant genus Biondea (family Elaeocarpaceae). In 1793, the genus Usteria (family Scrophulariaceae) was named in
    his honor by Antonio José Cavanilles, but this name was considered illegitimate because of a previous publication. Following his botanical period and during the French Revolution, he turned his attention to politics and held various government positions in Switzerland until his death in 1831. In 1801 he was named president of the Helvetian legislative council, and he was also involved with the newspaper Neue Zurcher Zeitung which led progressive papers in demanding press freedom. In the latter part of the 18th century, Usteri tried to connect medical anthropology and popular medicine in a way that would make it interesting for the educated medical laymen. He died in Zurich. The genus Usteria was published by Carl Ludwig von Willdenow in 1790.
  • ustula'ta: burned, scorched, sere.
  • utahen'se/utahen'sis: of or from Utah.
  • uti'lis: useful.
  • Utricular'ia: from the Latin utriculus, "a small bag or bladder," the common name of which is bladderwort. The genus Utricularia was published by Carl Linnaeus in 1753.
  • utricula'ta/utricula'tum: with a small bladdery one-seeded fruit, bladder-like.
  • -utum/-utus: a Latin adjectival suffix used to indicate possession (e.g. argutum, "sharply-toothed, possessed of teeth or notches"; cornutus, "horned, possessed of horns," from cornu, "horn"; acutus, "possessed of a sharp point").
  • u'va-ur'si: from Latin uva, "grape," and ursus, "bear," literally "bear's grape" referring to the fruit and to the fruits serving in the wild as bear food.
  • uvar'ia: from the Latin uva for a bunch of grapes.