My tongue stubbornly rolls around words like, Bergeranthus katbergensis and I wonder, “Can I sound any more stupider?” Botanical Latin is not my first language. I have plenty of friends who just seem to have a knack for it, but I’m not one of them. I do, however, appreciate the need of knowing more than the common name. I usually apologize in advance as I’m about to butcher the word.
In a six month period, I was fortunate enough to visit the Chicago Botanic Garden, first, deep in snow and then at the height of summer. Both were equally rewarding. Both visits also had me enthralled with a sculpture by Robert Berks depicting a youthful Linnaeus humbly kneeling to collect a rose, symbolizing a continuing search for knowledge. It was endearing to see the then young man perusing his passion, a man that would go on to do great things. He is in my life–our garden lives–every day.
Carolus (Carl) Linnaeus (1707-1778) is regarded as the Father of Taxonomic Botany. Linnaeus was a 17th century Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist best known for creating a system to classify plants based on the number of reproductive parts. His system brought order to the scientific plant world. Linnaeus also helped establish a universal system for naming living organisms known as binomial nomenclature. Each organism is named using two works: the first word is the genus and it is combined with a second word known as the specific epithet. Together they name that particular species.
When coming across a botanical Latin name, you may also see a person’s name or initial included with it, such as in the case of Campanula rotundifolia L. In this case the “L” stands is an abbreviation of Linnaeus. When a person’s name or initial is included, it doesn’t necessarily mean he discovered it, but rather he is the authority or first person who described and published the plant name for the first time. Another example is Acer barbatum Michx. ‘Michx’ stands for André Michaux.
He’s the guy–you can either love him or hate him, or be like me, and just be an obedient blunderer of all names botanical.