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More complicated Latin names explained. Flowers whose common names begin with P.R and S

Updated on March 3, 2013

Common flower names that begin with P

This is the latest in a series of articles looking at and explaining those complicated Latin names. We commence with one of the most familiar flowers - the Primrose It is a common plant of the cottage garden and the wider countryside.

Primrose, Primula vulgaris of the Family Primulaceae the primrose family.

Bothe Latin name and the genus name of Primula derive from the Latin Prima indicating first + rosa =rose The first rose, alluding to the plants early flowering period

The specific name of vulgaris indicates the plant being common..

Primrose in spring time

Primroses are one of the earliest plants to be found in full bloom
Primroses are one of the earliest plants to be found in full bloom | Source


Pimpernel, yellow- Lysimachia nemorum---Primulaceae {primrose family}.

Pimpernel, derives from the old French word pimpernelle, which, itself comes via Latin piper, meaning pepper. Alternatively it may well have come from bipinella a diminative of the Latin bipinnis, meaning two winged referring to the two leaves of the bog pimpernel.

The genus name of Lysimachia is named after an ancient King of Thrace who was reputed to have used the related loosestrifes in herbal medicine. The name Lysimachia was allocated to the palnt because it is more closely related to the loosestrifes than the pimpernel.

nemorum--indicates glades, refers to woodland habitat.

Yellow pimpernel is a woodland species



The pignut {earth nut} Conpodium majus Family- Apiaceae formerly the Umbelliferae. {Parsley family}

This small and delicate looking member of the parsley family gets its name from the fact that pigs dug out the edible tubers in days gone by when they tended to roam free.

Conopodium derives from the Greek Kono meaning a cone +podion indicating a foot and alludes to the conical nectaries.

Majus --larger or greater.

Flowers whose common names start with R

Ragged Robin Lychnis flos- culi family Caryophylaceae {pink family}

This quaint member of the ," pink's family " takes its common name from the raggy petals, which are of a pinkish red colour.

The genus name of Lychnis derives from the Greek name for the rose campion a related species.

flos-culi from latin and literally means cuckoo flower, a name shared by many spring flowering plants.

ragged robin is a grassland plant



Ragwort Senecio jacobaea Family Asteraceae formerly Compositae {daisy family}

Ragwort-derives from the ragged looking foliage which are deeply cut.

Senecio---from the Latin Senex meaning old man and alludes to the white seed plumes.

jacobaeae, is given as a specific name and is named after the patron saint of horses, due to an eroneous belief that the powder of the palnt cured the affliction known as " staggers"" in horses, hence its old country name of staggerwort. In fact the ragwort is very harmful to horses when grazed, due to its accumaltive build up of toxins in their vital organs.

The daisy like flowers of ragwort


Ramsons/Wild garlic

Ramsons or wild garlic-Allium ursinum-Family Liliaeae {lily family}

Ramsons is thought to derive from an old word indicated "rank" referring to the strong odour and taste the plant gives to the milk of any cow that has grazed upon it.

Wild garlic--the leaves and tubers taste and smell of garlic.

Allium is the Latin name for the onion and the Greek name for garlic.

Ursinum--may derive from the Latin urus meaning a bear, some believe this to be a reference to the shape of the foliage being superficiallly similar to the shape of a bears ear.However, others claimed it alludes to the palnt being inferior to cultivated garlic ie, a garlic fit only for bears.

Wild garlic

The foliage of Ramsons have a pungent smell of garlic in the spring
The foliage of Ramsons have a pungent smell of garlic in the spring | Source

Flower whose common name begins with S

Shepherd's purse-Capsella bursa-pastoris--Family Crucifer { cabbage and wall flower}

This very familar wild flower is often found as a garden "weed" also has the county title of Mothers heart.

So let us review these common names. Shepherd's purse. the ripe seeds in the heart shaped pods when held to the light appear as money in a purse, or perhaps the seed pods are similar in shape to the leather " bags" that shepherd's carried their food and drink to the fields, for it was also called in days gone by shepherd's scrip {wallet}

mothers heart--derives from an old country game played by children { especially in Scotland}, where an unsuspecting child would be asked to pick a ripe heart shaped seed pod. On doing so the seeds would spill out through the split pod, resulting in the child be accused of " breaking his mother's heart" by chanting children!

Capsella bursa-patoris --is a medical term given to an extract {liquid} .

capsella also indicates a box, probally alluding to the seed pod.

The heart shaped capsules of the Shepherd's purse



Sneezewort,Achillea ptarmica Family Asteraceae formerly Compositae {daisy family}

The common name of sneezewort, derives from the fact that Medieval herbalists used the plant to clear the head. It was dried and crushed into a powder which was used as one would use a snuff which produced sneezing.

Achillea-is dedicated to the legendary Greek hero Achilles { of the heel fame} who was said to have uded the plant for medicinal purposes..

ptarmica--derives from the Greek ptarmos meaning to sneeze.


Some say that just smelling the flowers can make you sneeze.
Some say that just smelling the flowers can make you sneeze. | Source

Shepherd's needle

Shepherd's needle Scandix pectan veneris---Family Apiaceae formerly Umbelliferae

The common name and many other country titles such as " old wive's darning needles", " hedgehogs" and "Ladies comb" all refer to the distinctive fruite { seed pods}. each one has a very long beak up to 2" {5cm} in length. this group pf long slender, upright spikes are a saliant feature.

Scandix the word is from the Greek xandis, meaning a comb, again referring to the fruits.

pectan veneris--Means the comb of Venus

The fruits are a saliant feature and have inspired many country names.


Speedwell, heath

Speedwell, heath, Veronica officinalis family Scrophulariaceae { figwort}

Speedwell; There are divided opinions on how this name evolved, it may allude to the plants supposed medicinal properties, to speed you well. The flowers were given to people at the start of a journey { a lucky charm as is the Saint Christopher today} to speed them on their way.-or similarly used in days gone by as a " fare thee well "

Veronica is thought to be dedicated to saint veronica, who was said to have wiped the face of Jesus with the plant as he carried his cross. However, some authorities claim that the name derives from the plants supposed ability to cure a long list of ailments.

officinalis--Sold as a drug at the Apothecary. many species of plant share this specific name { but always with a completely different genus name couples with it.}

In the final hub in this series some plants with common names starting with T - Z will be reviewed.

Speedwell have pretty blue flowers with a white centre



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