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More complicated Latin names explained. Plants whose common names start with T-Z

Updated on February 23, 2014

The spiky seed heads of the teasel


Final article on Latin plant names from T to Z

This is the final article on the subject of explaining those complicated Latin plant names. In previous hubs I have reviewed a sample of plant names in an A-Z formula. This the final one in the series reviews a sample of plants whose common names start with the letter T through to Z.

We begin our review with the Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum. teasel belongs to the family Asteraceae formerly the Compositae.

The common name of Teasel derives from the fact that the flower heads were used to tease wool and cloth. It derives from the Anglo-Saxon word taeson.

The specific name of fullonum-fullers were the poeple that worked with wool.

The genus name of Dipsacus comes from the Greek, indicating to 'thirst', and refers to the way rain water collects in the cup-like structures that form around the stem and leaves.


Tormentil -Potentila erecta belongs to the family Rosaceae { rose family}

Tormentil derives from the old French word tormentille via the Latin toermentilla from tormentum, meaning agony, alluding to its medicinal use in relieving pain.

Potenitlla the genus name comes from the Latin potens, indicating powerful {potent] and again refers to medicinal uses. The specific name of erecta means standing upright { as opposed to the creeping tormentil}

Tormentil Illustration

Vipers Bugloss, Echium vulgare-family Boraginaceae

The common name of Viper's bugloss derives from the fact that it was thought to cure snake bites and bugloss comes from two Greek words which together indicate Ox-tongue, which alludes to the shape and texture of the leaves.

The genus name of Echium comes from the Greek echis meaning a viper. The seeds were said to resemble the shape of a vipers head.

The specific name of vulgare means common.

Vetch, horse shoe, Hippocrepis comosa. Family Leguminosae {Fabiaceae}.

The common name alludes to the shape of the seed pods which have many horse shoe shaped segments. The flower-head also is referred to as being superficially horse shoe shape.

The genus name of Hippocrepis derives from two Greek words hippos meaning a horse and krepis meaning a shoe.

Comosa the specific name alludes to the covering of white fine hairs on the seed pods.

Horse shoe vetch

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Virginia Creeper Parthenocissus quinquefolia

The Virginia creeper formerly Vitis Hederaceae is now placed in the genus Parthenocissus and given the species name of quinquefolia. The old botanical name for the plant when it was introduced in 1629 was Hedera quinquefolia. It is also called American ivy.

Hedera, is the Latin genus name for ivy and other climbers it is supposed to have derived from the Celtic hoedra, meaning a chord, or possibly from the Greek hedra, meaning a seat. { The specific name for the common ivy is helix meaning twisting around. However, some authorities believe it is the name given because ivy is a great harbourer of snails. Helix is a scientific name for a family of snails which alludes to their 'twisting' around shells.

Parthenocissus the current genus name derives from the Greek parthenos meaning a virgin and kissos meaning ivy. refers to the common names of Virginia creeper and American ivy.

Ivy , the English name of ivy is said to come from iw, meaning green from its evergreen foliage. Yew [tree} is said to come from the same word.

quinquefolia means five leaves and refers to the leaflets of the Virginia creeper.

Foliage of the Virginia creeper


Wormwood Artemisia absinthium

Wormwood, Artemisia absinthium belongs to the family Asteraceae formerly the Compositae

The common name derives from two a possible sources. Some believe that it came from the old word 'wermuth' which indicates 'preserver of mind' alluding to its medicinal use as a nervine. other authorities say it derives from its one time use as a vermifuge { ridding the body of intestinal worms}.

Artemisia the genus name is dedicated to the Greek goddess of chastity Artemis. The specific name of absinthium Indicates to desist from, also alludes to Artmis.

Water violet

Water violet, Hottonia palustris belongs to the family Primulaceae.{Primrose family}

The origin of the common name 'violet' is not known, for this aquatic species is not related to the violets and is in the Primrose family.

Hottonia , again there is a division of opinion about the origin of the genus name, some authorities believe it is called after Dr.William Houston, 1695-1733, a British botanist. Others believe it is named after Petrus Hotton an 18th century Dutch professor of Botany.

The specific name of palustris means of marshes. The alternative names of featherfoil, water milfoil and water yarrow all allude to the delicate leaves that grow beneath the water's surface.

Water Violet Illustration


Wood sorrel

Wood sorrel , Oxalis acetosella belongs to the family Oxalidaceae.

The common name wood sorrel refers to habitat. The word sorrel derives from the old French surelle meaning sour. This species is not a true sorrel which belong to the dock family.

Oxalis the genus name alludes to the oxalic acid contained in the leaves, that produces a sour taste. the species name of acetosella derives from the Latin acetum meaning vinegar, again alluding to the sour taste.

The three leaflets of the sorrel which are somewhat clover-like have given claim for this palnt to be the shamrock, along with white clover and lesser trefoil. { Did you know there is no such plant as a shamrock. Shamrock comes from a Gaelic word which means a clover like plant.}

Yellow rattle

Yellow rattle, Rhinanthus minor belongs to the family Schrophulariaceae.

The common name and another older name for the plant of 'rattle box' refers to the ripe seeds which produce a rattling sound in their pods when shaken. Swedish peasants in days gone by took this sound to be a signal to start mowing their hay. Another name used in the south of England and in particular the region of Somerset was 'hayshackle'.

Rhinanthus the genus name alludes to the shape of the petal tube, which resembles the witch's hooked nose, from the Greek rhinos meaning nose and anthos meaning flower.

minor -the specific name means smaller differentiating this one from larger species.

yellow rattle growing among grasses


Yellow water lily

Yellow water lily Nupher lutea belongs to the family Nymphaceae { water lily family}

Nupher the generic name derives from an Arabic name for aquatic plants.

lutea from Latin and indicates the colour yellow.

The country titles for this plant is brandy bottle and can dock, both of which allude to the shape of the seed pods. they are superficially like the shape of old type brandy bottle shape.

Seed pods are the shape of old type brandy bottles


Yellow flag {iris}

Yellow flag. Iris psuedacorus. Belong to the Iris family Iridaceae. It is also referred to as the sword flag.

Common name-According to legend the first person to wear the iris as a heraldic devise was Clovis, who became the king of the Franks in the late 5th century. He drove the Romans out of northern Gaul, and was converted to christianity. He changed the three toads which adorned his banner for three yellow iris. hence the name of yellow flag{banner}

Much later in history the iris was adopted by Louis V11 in the fleur-de-lys, which he wore in the crusades against the Saracens. lys is a corruption of Louis thus fluers-de-lys the flower of Louis.

Iris is the Greek name for the rainbow. Alludes to the spectrum of colours among the different species.

psuedacorus, means false iris.

Sword flag refers to the shape of the leaves that have sharp edges that can easily cut the skin if handled carelessly.

Yellow flag {iris}



Here we conclude the explanations of Latin names of some familiar flowers. Over the four articles I have tried to give a broad sample of flowers. In my other hubs about the species themselves many more explanations are given. If you would like to know the explanation of the Scientific name of a particular plant, you can get in touch, and if I can help, it will not be problem.

Some time in the future I intend to do a hub explaining the Latin names of Fauna such as birds and animals. Thank you for taking the time to read.


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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Cat:) thank you for being the first to visit and for leaving your appreciated comments. Best wishes to you.

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 

      5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Interesting plant facts for those of us who love botany and horticulture. I also enjoyed your photography. You must have had some very nice field outings. Thank you!

      My best to you,

      Cat :)


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