Osteospermum eklonis (African daisy) Malvella leprosa (Alkali mallow) Hulsea algida (Alpine gold hulsea) Medicago sativa (Alfalfa) Angelica tomentosa (Woolly angelica) Bahia dissecta (Ragged-leaf bahia) Lunaria annua (Annual moonwort) Gilia brecciarum ssp. neglecta (Argus gilia) Prunus fremontii (Desert apricot) Aptenia cordifolia (Baby sun rose)


This website is intended to be a companion one to my California Plant Names: Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations, a work that has been in progress for well over 20 years. Given the length of ttime that website has taken to create, I'm not sure that I will ever be able to complete this one to my and others' satisfaction. I intend to begin with the names that are derived from botanists, plant collectors, scientists, explorers and ordinary people like me who have in some way contributed to the world of botany. I am not an expert in Latin or Greek, and I make no firm guarantees as to the accuracy or legitimacy of these definitions. Further, I take no original credit for the work represented here, and claim merely to have compiled information from published and online sources and presented it in one location.  In addition to those many other sources I have relied on, I wish to acknowledge the work of Dr. Umberto Quattrocchi of Sicily, whose massive World Dictionary of Plant Names, published in 4 volumes, includes 22,500 genera and over 200,000 species.   I have been privileged through the internet to have made his acquaintance. I expect I will be relying heavily on his scholarship, and I thank him for it. I particularly want to thank David Hollombe of the Santa Monica chapter California Native Plant Society for his tremendous research and fine scholarship, and for his numerous invaluable and unfailingly generous biographical contributions and corrections. Without his knowledge and help, this would be a far poorer effort. I also express appreciation to Doug Coleman, Biologist and Executive Director of the Nature Foundation at Wintergreen. in whose company I spent a very enjoyable day exploring plants in the Blue Ridge, and for whose friendship I am grateful. I especially want to acknowledge the Herbarium and Education staffs at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden who, although not involved in the creation of this work, have nevertheless helped me greatly in the identification of plant specimens, introduced me to numerous interesting and productive localities, and contributed greatly to the furtherance of my botanical knowledge and to my enjoyment of native plants. I have been extremely fortunate to have been able to benefit from the knowledge and experience of many professional botanists such as Bruce Baldwin, Jim Andre, Jon Rebman, Steve Junak, Dana York, Fred Roberts, Tim Krantz, Jim Morefield and others, and I thank them. For help with botanical terminology and etymology, particularly with Latin words, I express my appreciation to Mike Simpson and E. Nicholas Genovese at SDSU. I would be remiss in not also mentioning the wonderful online series of biographical essays entitled "Who's In A Name?" by Larry Blakely that are not only highly informative but equally fun to read. The Dave's Garden website with its Botanary section is also worthy of mention, as is the online Dictionary of Botanical Epithets and the Glossary of Roots of Botanical Names. There are other people who have occasionally written with suggestions and corrections, and I am always extremely appreciative for that.

A careful peruser of these pages may note different spellings for the same root word. This is unavoidable whenever a foreign language is translated into English.  In some instances different references give different derivations for the same name, reflecting perhaps a certain amount of guesswork.  It is not always easy or even possible to say where a name came from, what it means or what it refers to. Many of these names were assigned decades or in some cases centuries ago, and the namers have not always left records as to why particular names were selected. Sometimes the generic name alludes to a characteristic of a single species that may have been the first one of its genus to be identified but is not typical of all its related species, and therefore may seem oddly chosen.  Similarly, a specific name may reflect a characteristic that is not typical of all known subspecies or geographical variants.  In many cases, the reader will regretfully be left to guess for him or herself just how these meanings actually relate to the plant in question.  This list should therefore be considered mainly as an interesting source of information which may help to illustrate why some plants have the names they do, and may at least point people in the direction of learning more about the names of plants.

The reader should be aware that a specific epithet for one genus might have a different derivation or meaning than the same epithet for another genus, just as the names baileyi or bakeri can refer to more than one individual. It is often difficult to discern exactly where these names came from, or what was in the mind of the author who published them. No doubt this may have resulted in mistakes in the derivations or meanings I have given for particular taxa. In many cases the author of the taxonomic name is no longer available to explain what he or she meant by the name or why it was chosen, and sometimes there was never any published explanation even while the author was alive. A source such as Stearn's Dictionary of Plant Names may give a derivation which applies to a taxon in Europe for example, but may not apply to a Virginia taxon. There is no official compilation or other published work which may absolutely be relied upon, and I am only too aware that information given on the internet is not always accurate. For all these reasons the reader must be aware of the limitations of a site such as this, and believe that I have made a good faith effort to present correct information.

I am grateful to Michael Simpson for his suggestion of placing stress marks in each name to assist in its proper pronunction. A phonetic pronunciation guide for the names in my website is presented here, and an essay on principles of botanic name pronunction is given here.

The links at the bottom of the page will take you to sections on Virginia plant communities and the development of botanical nomenclature, as well as a 750-item glossary.  It will be updated periodically as new information becomes available to me. Anyone wishing to see my photographs of Southern California flora in a larger format may look at my other websites, Southern California Wildflowers,  and Field Trips Photo Gallery.  I would greatly appreciate being contacted and corrected with any information contrary or supplemental to that herein noted, or any sources of information on plant names other than those listed on the sources page. If requested, my consent will gladly be given for any non-commercial use of my photographs.

Please do not confuse this site with Calflora, the superb database of botanical information maintained by the Calflora Database in Albany, California.  My site is not affiliated with that organization, and anyone looking for that site is directed to go to:  http://www.calflora.org.  

Click on the links below for other pages of the website

Flora of the Mt. Wilson Trail

Field Trip Photo Galleries

The Eponym Dictionary of Southern African Plants

Flora of Southern Africa

Megafauna of Kruger National Park

Voyage to the North Pole

Nomenclatural Puzzles


Southern California Plant Communities  

Botanical Terms  



Mike's Favorite Wildflower Photos

Southern California Wildflowers

Field Trips Log

Trees of Southern California

Fall-Blooming Plants of the East Mojave

Fall Wildflowers of the Hudson River Valley

Aloes of the Huntington Gardens

What's Blooming at the Los Angeles County Arboretum

Wild Places of Southern California

Butterflies and Moths

Wildflowers of Ireland

The Primate Nooz


Flora of Bermuda


Hunewill Ranch

Borneo Adventure

About the Photographer

Copyright @ 2022 by Michael L. Charters.
The photographs contained in this website may not be reproduced without the express consent of the author.