A Gardener’s Guide to Plant Names–B.J. Healey

If you are both a gardener/farmer and a lover of history and of language (that’s philologist, for the initiated), this book is the ultimate in gratifying geekery.  The title page offers this summation of the book’s contents:

“An excursion into the mysteries of botanical names; and, I hope, an answer to your friends who fix you with a glassy eye and ask, ‘What’s that in English?'” 

In its pages, you’ll find the botanical (usually of Latin or Greek derivation, or named for a botanist) names for all kinds of plants (it’s not comprehensive, but it’s pretty broad) and their meanings, a bit of history about how they got their names, and juicy tidbits about what those names mean.  A sample:

“Vinca (Periwinkle) Family: Apocynaceae

The Latin name used by Pliny, probably from vincio, to bind; referring to the long tough runners.  A genus of seven species, mostly trailing perennials widely distributed over Europe and Western Asia.  The hardy species are useful for ground cover either in sun or under trees and hedges.”

This is one of the shorter entries–it does go on to name the species and some useful cultivars as well.

A few more details: My copy was published in 1972 in New York by Charles Scribner’s Sons.  ISBN: 684-14439-5

Every time I pick up this book, I get lost in it.


One response to this post.

  1. What a treat! Sounds right up my alley. And it needs to be on my bookshelf. I love to settle in with “geeky” tomes like this while waiting for spring. Thanks!

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