Thursday, December 21, 2017

What's up doc?

A happy Solstice to everyone! Though it's the shortest day of the year - and for us gardeners shorter days means possibly less time in the garden - at least we have the knowledge that the days slowly begin getting longer.
I'm taking a break from my usual format today and doing another entry in the Thematic Plant Names collection. Today, I'm invoking a bit of medical science or at least anatomy in the plants I include here. It's a reminder that Latin is Latin is Latin. By that I mean that Latin is the source for many medical terms as it is equally the source for most horticulture terms. There's bound to be overlap and as it turns out there is. I've taken substantial liberties (a lot of rope as they say), so keep that in mind. And this is all tongue-in-cheek.
Here goes.
Adenium obesum. This caudiciform (fat trunk) is aptly named, referring of course to obese.
Chamaecyparis thyoides. Add in an 'r' and you've got thyroid.
Corokia. Umm, isn't this awfully close to 'croak?'
Heliophila longifolia. The genus name of this pretty blue-flowering annual conjures up 'hemophilia.'
Fallopia japonica. This is easy, being directly connected to 'fallopian tubes.'
Some botanical names just sound like they should be medical terms. For example, the species name of Porcelain berry vine (Ampelopsis brevipedlunculata), certainly sounds like a fatal disease. Or how about Dicliptera suberecta? "I'm sorry sir. We're going to have to remove your dicliptera suberecta."
Asplenium. This fern genus is easy, sounding very much like spleen.
Speaking of ferns, a number of ferns have very medical sounding names. How about the fern genus Coniogramme? Doesn't that sound like some sort of X-ray? A version of a sonogram?
Or how about Phyllitis. You'd swear that was a disease. Perhaps related to a certain STD? Even the rather common sword fern Nephrolepsis sounds a bit too close to sepsis for comfort.
One medical sounding name that seems to confuse certain of our nursery customers is the shade ground cover Glechoma. You see the puzzled look on their face and I suspect they heard 'glaucoma' instead.
Then there's the hard to find Lobostemon. Any guess what it made me think of? Perhaps your mind can't quite pull it up. Perhaps because you recently had a lobotomy? The prefix 'lobo' of course refers to a lobe or rounded portion affixed to the main body.
Regular gym members will get the anatomical connection with the South African shrub Melianthus pectinatus. How's work going on your 'pecs?'
Speaking of botanical names that have an ominous sounding name, how about Roscoea purpurea? "I'm afraid Ms. that you have Purple Roscoe disease. Fortunately, there is a cure. Eat lots of chocolate." If only that were the go-to cure-all ...
Sometimes it's the variety name that suggests a medical connection, like Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue.' Black and blue indeed.
Scrophularia. Umm, I think you can guess this one ... No? Certain private parts?
Stachys albotomentosa. It's the species name here that sounds vaguely clinical.
Streptosolen. This exceptionally colorful flowering shrub nonetheless suggests 'strep throat' (streptococcal infection). Curiously, 'Strepto' translates as 'twisted.'
Trachelospermum. Our common star or bush jasmine contains the root 'trach' as in trachea.
And lastly, I give you the word 'schizo.' Our first association is of course schizoid and there's a reason for the use of this word for certain botanical terms. 'Schizo' means "to split" and that has a bearing on plants as diverse as Hydrangea schizophragma, Hibiscus schizopetalus and the genus Schizostylis.

Okay, there you have it. A little fun with names on this chilly solstice day.

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