The Latin Quarter

Some Latin plant names give away important clues about the nature of the plant.  Here are a few of the more commonly used names, and perhaps a few rare ones, to broaden your knowledge of the wonderful world of Latin.

Rosa damascena - A variety of the Rosa damascena, the York and Lancaster rose was a striped damask rose, with green branches and pubescent leaves, commonly found in Victorian gardens.

coccinea = Scarlet
Salvia coccinea – Scarlet sage

sulphureus = Sulphur-colored
Cosmos sulphureus – Cosmos

rotundifolia = Round-leaved
Tithonia rotundifolia – Mexican sunflower

communis = Growing in common; general
Ricinus communis – Castor bean

cylindrica = Cylindrical
Luffa cylindrica – Luffa sponge

tuberosum = Tuberous
Allium tuberosum – Garlic chives

sativum = Cultivated; planted deliberately
Coriandrum sativum – Cilantro/Coriander

vulgare = Vulgar; common
Foeniculum vulgare – Fennel

officinalis = Medicinal; of the pharmacopoeia
Melissa officinalis – Lemon balm

Paniculatum = having flowers in a cluster, with each flower borne on a separate stalk
Koelreuteria paniculata – Goldenrain tree

Place names:

sinensis or sinicus = of or from China
Camellia sinensis – Tea

peruviana = Peruvian; from Peru
Physalis peruviana – Cape Gooseberry

florentina = of or from Florence, Italy
Iris florentina – Sweet Violet is the source of orris, the powdered root still used as a fixative in perfumes and cosmetics.  The rhizome, when dried, has the fragrance of violets; in modern perfumery, almost all “violet” scents are derived from orris.

persicaefolius or persicifolius = of or from Persia; resembling the peach
The peach, Prunus persica, was originally called Malum persicum, the “Persian apple”.

punica = of or from Carthage
The pomegranate, originally known to the Romans as the “apple from Carthage”, Malus punica, later became known as the “apple full of grains”, Pomum granatum.  Now the modern botanical name, Punica granatum, incorporates both elements.

Definitions taken from Gardner’s Latin by Bill Neal