Saturday, February 23, 2013

School-marm Saturday Session #2

****School's in Session!!****

Today we're going to talk about Latin.

One of the oldest languages, Latin is the basis for many languages including our own. There are remnants of Latin nearly everywhere and if you have a dictionary that tells you the etymology (derivative) of words, it's really quite fascinating.

Now, I don't know a lot of regular Latin, but in college I was taught botanical Latin for the proper identification of plants.

You see, every plant that's ever been discovered in the entire world has a Latin name. The name for a plant in Latin is the same whether you are in the USA, Europe or some remote island nation. It doesn't matter, the Latin (or botanical name as it can be called) is the same. This does away with the fact that some plants' common names (the name most of us call plants) can vary depending on what country, state or even what county you live in.

Common name: Myrtle, Creeping vinca, Vinca, Periwinkle
Latin name: Vinca minor
Vinca minor

Vinca minor has four or more common names. My husband calls in Myrtle, I call in Periwinkle. To me, Myrtle is Crepe Myrtle (a completely different plant!) and a shrub to boot whereas Vinca minor is a low-growing ground cover with purple flowers, invasive in some areas.

So! Latin is awesome in that if everyone used it, there would be no confusion about what plant you're talking about! And, if you want to be super sure you know what plant you are getting, consult the Latin name. A reputable nursery will have them in their catalogs. I tend to avoid ones who don't because there are no laws governing common names and unfortunately, some nurseries create common names to make something sound new or exciting and get more sales.

Latin names are decided on by Taxonomic scientists whose job it is to delve in to the minutiae of plant anatomy. They include the texture or shape of a leaf, the flower parts etc. so the Latin words actually describe the plant itself.

Vinca major
Let's take Vinca minor again. Minor means lesser. There is another Vinca called Vinca major. So basically you have two different plants (vincas) and one (major) is larger (flower size or stem size etc.) than the other (minor). Make sense? The differences in them can be quite small so the photos on here may not look like it but they are two different plants. There are lots of great examples of this kind of descriptive feature of Latin but I think that's enough for one lesson.

*A final note: I italicize all Latin names in this post. That is one way you can tell a name is Latin. Latin has to be italicized in type and underlined when hand-written to denote and basically say "Hey! I'm LATIN"*

This concludes today's lesson. Thanks for stopping by!


  1. I've always wanted to study latin. When I became a master gardener I learned all the botanical names too...

    1. I've learned that botanical Latin and regular are quite different too! But yes, it's too bad it wasn't taught at my school, I would have done much better at it than I ever did in Spanish.

  2. Hello Fearless! Heard this wonderful story of a couple visiting Russia. They did not speak Russian. The wife was a plant enthusiast and spent a whole afternoon with a Russian woman in great communication delight as they pointed to plant after plant and spoke in their common tongue--Latin botanical names! Found you on MJF Girl Gab!

  3. Delightful! That's exactly what I'm talking about. Botanical Latin means everyone can talk plants! Thanks for visiting. MJF Girl Gab has been great for getting new people to my blog. Best wishes!

    1. MJF is just the best in so many excellent ways. Don'tcha love her?! Thanks for joining up on my blog. Little moments of each day seem filled with Divine Blessings. I like to shine them around for everyone.