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More Complicated Latin names explained. Flowers whose common names begin with M.N.and O

Updated on February 28, 2013

Flowers whose common names begin with M

This is the second of my hubs which explain the meaning of those complicated Latin names. In this section I take three examples of flower species whose names begin with M.

The first flower I have chosen is the Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris which is a member of the Ranunculaceae {buttercup family of plants.} which also has the title of Kingcup attributed to it in certain regions of England.

Let us explore the meaning of the common names of the plant. Marsh is fairly straight forward and alludes to the preferred habitat of this plant. Marigold--is a name shared by many species of plant especially so of those of the Genus Calendula. It is said to derive from the use of these flowers in church festivals during the middle ages as one of the golden flowers dedicated to the Virgin Mary, ie, Mary's gold. It may also have derived from a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon words merso-meargealla their name for the marsh marigold. Old English writers referred to the plant as Golds or Rhuddes.

The archaic name of Kingcup alludes to the buttons or studs such as the ones worn by Kings in days gone by, cup being a corruption of the old English word cop meaning a button or stud.

Now to the Latin name. The genus name of Caltha which derives from the Greek Kalathos meaning a cup or goblet alludes to the cup shaped flowers. The specific name of palustris meaning of the marsh from the Latin palus like the common name alludes to the plants preferred habitat.

Marsh marigold Caltha palustris



The meadowsweet belongs to the Rose family Rosaceae.

The name Meadowsweet is a corruption of a much older name attributed to the plant-medesweete, given because the plant was employed to flavour mead-the Anglo Saxon drink which was produced by fermenting honey.

The country title of courtship and marriage alludes to the two distinct aromas of the flowers and leaves. The heady smell of the flowers was said to represent courtship and the sharper scent of the bruised foliage was said to represent the reality of marriage. This name was popular in the county of Yorkshire {north east England}.

The genus name of Filipendula-derives from the Latin filum meaning a thread + pendulous -hanging, alluding to the threads connecting the root tubers.

The specific name of ulmaria signifies the elm ulmus being elm like. Supposedly alludes to the foliage of both species being similar.

meadow sweet


Mayweed-Matricaria maritima

Mayweed belongs to the Asteraceae family of plants -formerly the Compositae.

The common name given to this species has nothing to do with the month of May. It derives from an old English name for a maiden.the plant was once used in herbal medicine to treat women's "complaints".

The genus name of Matricaria derives from the Latin matrix-meaning the womb, once again alluding to its medicinal uses. The specific name of maritima was probably attributed to the plant because the first specimen properly described was found growing by the coast.



Plants whose common name begins with N----nasturtium

Nasturtium Tropaeolum majus.

This common garden favourite derives its name from the Latin nasus tortus meaning nose twisting or twisted nose. it is said to refer to the aroma in some species and the taste in others that makes one screw up their nose.

The genus name of Tropaeolum meaning a trophy from the Latin tropaion. In archaic times the shields and helmets of a defeated army were hung in trees for the victors to admire. Linnaeus {famous for giving every living thing on this planet a scientific name} saw a nasturtium climbing up a post and declared that the leaves reminded him of shield and the red flowers the blood stained helmets. the specific name majus just means larger { than other species}

Nasturtium flowers


Nettle,dead white

The white dead nettle Lamium album belongs to the Labiatae the mint family. It is also known as White Archangel.

The common name refers to the shape of the foliage being similar to the foliage of the stinging nettle and the fact that the flowers are white. Dead-refers to the fact that this plant does not have a sting.

Archangel-an old Country name for the plant--refers to the fact that the flowers often bloomed or where abundant on the day dedicated to Archangel Michael May 8th on the old calender which was 11 days earlier then the one used today.

The genus name Labium comes fro a Latin word meaning throat and alludes to the shape of the flower corolla and it was once used medicinally for throat problems. the specific name album comes from the Latin albus meaning white and alludes to the flower colour.

White archangel


Sting nettle Urtica dioica

The common stinging nettle belongs to the family Urtiaceae.

It gets its common name from the painful sting of the foliage. the name nettle derives from the Anglo-Saxon word noedl meaning a needle or a point, again alluding to the sting. or from its widespread use in archaic times as being a source of thread.

Urtica comes from the Latin uro which indicates " I burn " -the sting.

The specific name of dioica pronounced dee-o-ee-ka indicates of two houses or abodes and refers to the fact that only one type of flower is produced by a plant,ie, all male or all female, thus two plants one of each gender is needed to pollinate. many other plants share the specific name of dioica as for an example the red campion Silene dioica.

Final group of flowers whose common name begins with O

Orache,Common-Atriplex patula belongs to the family Chenopodiaceae { Goosefoots}

The name Orache derives from the old French name for the plant- arache.

The genus name of Atriplex is an old Greek name for the orache and other plants of the goosefoot family. They are called goosefoots from the shape of the foliage which is said to resemble the shape of a goose's foot. The family name of Chenopodiaceae also takes its name from the Greek chen meaning a goose = pous meaning a foot.

The specific name patula indicates standing open.

Photograph of Atriplex seum

Note the shape of the leaves which are said to resemble the shape of a goose's foot.
Note the shape of the leaves which are said to resemble the shape of a goose's foot. | Source

Oyster plant Mertensia maritima.

The oyster plant belongs to the Boraginaceae family.

The common name alludes to the tangy taste of the foliage which is said to be reminiscent of the taste of oysters. they used to be eaten raw or boiled as a pot herb.

The genus name of Mertensia alludes to the German botanist Franz Karl Mertons.

maritima alludes to the plant growing by the sea.

The plant is also known as sea bluebell and in America oyster leaf.

We conclude with the Orchids

Orchid-Birds nest orchid-Neottia nidus avis- family Orchidaceae

The common name birds nest orchid and the specific name of nidus avis Nidus-nest and avis-bird, both refer to the roots resembling a birds nest and contain a fungus on which the orchid feeds.

The genus name Neottia derives from neo and means spinning {spiral} refers to the stems leaves and flowers.

Orchid, bee- Ophrys apifera

The common name refers to the flowers which resemble in form a fat bumble bee.

Ophrys is the Greek name for the orchid which may derive from ophrus meaning an eyebrow referring to the flowers brown markings.

The word Orchid derives from the Greek orchis meaning testis alludes to the two egg shaped tubers that Pliny said looked like testicles.


In the next hub on the meaning of flower names we move on to those flowers that begin their common names with the letters P,R and S.

The beautiful bee orchid

The flower does indeed resemble a fat bumblebee.
The flower does indeed resemble a fat bumblebee. | Source

Marsh orchids are beautiful grassland flowers



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    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      I leapt on it as soon as I saw it, because I was so pleased with the subject matter - British wild flowers being something I enjoy on a daily basis. West Lancashire - that must mean you get even more rain than we do!

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 5 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi Nettlemere, nice to meet you, we are near neighbours me living in West Lancashire.

      Thank you for your kind comments and your very quick visit it was only published minutes ago. best wishes Dal.

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      I love the names of wild flowers both the binomial system ones and their common names, so this was a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting read. (I even named my dog after one - Rosa canina) Pinned.