THE POWER OF A NAME

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What's in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet" 
- Romeo and Juliet
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Sometimes unlike the famous quote of the Shakespearian play I have been seduced when ordering plants. I end up making my selection based purely on the name and the nostalgia I personally associate with it (if nothing else it helps me remember my Latin!). There definitely are some strange and wonderful names for plants. Some not very complimentary and some which don’t seem to make a whole lot of sense until you discover their origin. I’ve decided to touch on a few varieties and give you a little bit of insight.
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1) FOXGLOVE (DIGITALIS): One tale in folklore has it that the fairies presented the Candy Mountain Foxglovefoxglove as a source of mittens to the fox so the fox would not leave his paw prints to be identified in the raid on a chicken coop.                                                              
2) TOAD LILY (TRICYRTIS): How such an exquisite plant came by the name toad lilyTOAD LILY (TRICYRTIS) surely is a sad story. I think it may just have been a flower in the wrong place at the wrong time or maybe it was so named by a lover of toads! The flower is spotted…are toads spotted? Oh well this is one perennial you’ll just have to learn how to pronounce the Latin name!!
3) SOLOMON'S SEAL  (POLYGONATUM): An herbalist could extol all the many virtues of Solomon’s Seal. It was named for the Hebrew King Solomon who was said to have the wisdom to recognize the merit of this root for its healing powers (leaves, fruit and SOLOMON'S SEAL (POLYGONATUM)stem are poisonous). ‘Seal’ refers to the scar on the root which is left each year by the dieback of the stem. A vintage perennial of great significance!

BUTTERFLY WEED (ASCLEPIAS TUBEROSA) 4) BUTTERFLY WEED (ASCLEPIAS TUBEROSA): I would be amiss not to give honourable mention to the butterfly weed. The name gives it away. The least of its attributes are its  beauty. A ‘weed’ that produces a great quantity of nectar for the bees and butterflies and it is a smorgasbord incomparable for the monarch caterpillars.
5)  SNEEZE WEED (HELENIUM): Historically used as a dried powder to stimulate SNEEZE WEED (HELENIUM)sneezing intended for clearing out the sinuses. Not a pretty picture but a noble and valuable purpose!
6) SPIDERWORT (TRADESCANTIA): The sappy thread-like substance that oozes from the cut stem when dry is reminiscent of a spider’s web. Try it and see. If you notice ‘wort’ in a plant’s common name that is a clue that this was an ancient plant used as
SPIDERWORT (TRADESCANTIA) an herb or in some medicinal way. In particular, spiderwort was once upon a time used as a laxative or sometimes a poultice was made from its leaves to relieve insect bites.
7) BACHELOR BUTTON (CENTAUREA): Always a little romance in the flower BACHELOR BUTTON (CENTAUREA)anecdotes. If a young man in love picked a cornflower from the field for his button hole the speed at which the flower wilted was an indicator how deeply his love was returned.

I must confess as I was doing research of botanical names I was often distracted by many unusual and exotic plants that I may never see except in pictures or in a conservatory.  For your perusal and fascination check out the following:
flowersacrossmelbourne.com

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