A friend of mine, who knows not a whit about gardening, often likes to test my knowledge of plants by pointing at a tree or shrub or flower and asking “What’s that?”
Then I fire back with the botanical and common name of the plant.
Then she says, “You could be making that up and I’d never know!”
What? How could anyone think that I would make up botanical names?
Well, I might find it helpful to have a few temporary botanical names to use in those situations where I don’t know the actual botanical name of the plant.
It would sound better than “blah blah blah”, smarter than “uh uh uh”, and merely serve as a place holder of sorts until I had a chance to either remember the real botanical name or look it up. No harm done!
I can think of several temporary genus names that would be useful…
Forgetia, pronounced “for-get-ia”. Use this genus name along with an appropriate descriptive species name when you have honestly forgotten the botanical name and are going to have to spend some time searching online or looking in reference books trying to jog your memory to remember it.
For example, Forgetia rosea might be a plant with a pink flower. Or Forgetia giantosa might be the biggest plant in your garden, the one you can’t believe you can’t remember the botanical name for.
Lookupsia, pronounced “loo-kup-sia”. Use this temporary genus name when you know you’ve recorded the name of the plant in your garden journal or a garden catalog and you just need a minute to go in and look it up. Again, you can combine it with any descriptive species name so it sounds more complete.
For example, Lookupsia orchida is a good temporary name for that hardy orchid you planted last spring, the one that you can’t remember the name of and have to look up each time someone asks you about it. (Coincidentally pictured above, it has the actual botanical name of Bletilla striata.)
Neverknewia, pronounced “nev-a-new-ia”. Use this genus name if you took over an existing garden and it includes plants that you never knew the name of to begin with. Or use it for that plant you just had to buy from the garden center, even though it had no label and you had no idea what it was. (Shame on you for buying it, by the way, it could have been invasive or maybe a weed that grew in the pot after the plant actually for sale died!)
Eventually, some other gardener will come along and ask you what is, you’ll say "Neverknewia plantsia" in a soft little voice, and then she or he will politely correct you saying, “Really, it looks more like a rose to me.” And at that very moment you can drop the temporary botanical name and call it by its real botanical name, Rosa (or whatever it turns out to be).
Weedisia, pronounced “wee-de-sia”. Use this genus name when someone asks you the name of something you are pretty sure is a weed you should have pulled. Then when the other person isn’t looking or has left your garden, pull that darn weed. And absolutely, even if they beg, do not dig and divide it and give it to them as a passalong plant.
For example, Weedisia prolifica would probably work for most weeds, because they are usually prolific.
Now if you think all these temporary botanical names are just foolishness and want to know how to avoid being in situations where you feel you need to use one of them, I have one suggestion…
Embrace plant labels!
You don’t have to stick the label right next to the plant in the garden to embrace it. In fact, I would prefer you didn’t unless you are running a botanical garden. But do keep your plant labels for future reference.
Suggestions on what to do with the labels include:
- Put them in a plant catalog of all the plants in your garden.
- Keep them in envelopes, with one envelope for each garden bed or area of the garden.
- Scan them into your computer and then save the images online, filed by garden bed or uploaded to a special blog with one entry per plant.
-Hang them on bulletin boards in your garden shed or garage.
Or come up with your own method.
You might still have to use the genus name Lookupsia as a temporary place holder, but at least you know you will be able to find the botanical name when you need it.
Embrace plant labels for a happier life!