Common wrong 'common' names

baccalynnwv(5b West Virginia)April 9, 2010

I posted this is another forum on accident but thought the question would be better placed here.

Ok. So I know the title doesn't make any sense. I couldn't figure out how to word it better. I'm on break at work and day dreaming about spring flowers and gardens and got to thinking about common names that people call native plants that are so horribly wrong.

For instance here in central West Virginia they call the wild orange azaleas - honey suckles. That one irks me the most. Also daffodils that bloom right at Easter, Easter Lily. It drives me nuts!

Anyone have the same experiences??

I got onto my co-worker so much becuase everytime she referred to the azelea as a honey suckle I'd blurt out, "AZALEA!" lol Now she just refers to them as hillbilly honey suckles. LOL!!!

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I find the common names charming, especially in how they vary from area to area. Often, with a little research, you can find out why these plants have such names. Years ago I wondered about Silene virginica, which are red but called "Fire Pink" by the locals I met in the mountains. I finally discovered that the pink was due to the edges, sharp as if cut by pinking shears. Made sense then. I agree that botanical names are more accurate and can be intresting if you know about the people for whom some plants are named or if you know the meaning of the specific epithet.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2010 at 7:20AM
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I am with you on the Easter Lily! Some people around here call the Daffodil an Easter Lily and some call it a Buttercup. GRRR My sister, God love her, she and I were talking last night and she asked me "Where did you get that wild hippy marsh mallow plant you gave me last year?" I was confused and it took us narrowing down everything I had given her last year to finally determine it was wild Hibiscus-Rose Mallow! Ah ha ha ha ha I asked her where she came up with a name such as that. She said her neighbor calls it that because it is wild and hippies are about natives and it grows in marshes and it is a mallow. Errr....ok....whatever! LOL And yes, I gave her a brief lesson regarding natives not being related to being a hippy.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2010 at 11:43AM
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The two common names that drive the folks crazy on the trees forum: Tulip poplar (Liriodendron) and Boxelder (Acer). Because the first tree is not a "poplar" (they prefer the common name "tuliptree" and the second tree is neither a Box nor an Elder (it is in fact a maple relative).

Then there are the really NON-descriptive names like the term "hedge" for chinese privet (at least in the South).

    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 6:30AM
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lycopus(z5 NY)

It can be difficult to explain the common name for Taxus spp.

"This tree is a yew"

"What about me?"

"No, the TREE is a yew"

"Are you trying to be philosophical?"

"The NAME of the tree is yew"

"I am not a tree!"

    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 11:28AM
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ROFL Lycopus!! That is too funny! Thanks for the laugh! I sure needed one!

    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 11:33AM
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lycopus(z5 NY)

Just had another one of these moments today. Someone stopped me today because she heard I was a botanist and wanted to know why her red maple was growing so slowly. I asked if the leaves were turning yellow (thinking it might be chlorosis from growing on alkaline soil). She said no, the leaves are red. At that point I figured it was a Japanese maple and told her it was probably just naturally slow growing. Then she wanted to know how long before she could sit under it for shade, and I said that if it was a Japanese maple then it might not ever get that big. "No", she replied, "what I have is a red maple". When I suggested possibly planting a red-leaf Norway spruce if shade was what she desired she said "I already have a red maple" and walked away.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 3:47PM
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