Botanical color names and their meaning

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Latin is the international language of botanists. This has the great advantage that plant families, species and varieties can be clearly assigned throughout the world. For some hobby gardeners, however, the flood of Latin and pseudo-Latin terms can become pure gibberish. Especially because gardeners and plant markets often do not take the award exactly. In the following, we will tell you the meaning of the botanical color names.

The botanical nomenclature

Since Carl von Linnaeus (1707-1778), the Latin terminology used by the botanist follows a relatively regular principle: The first word of the plant name first refers to the genus and thus provides information about its kinship. So belong Lilium candidum (White Lily), Lilium formosanum (Formosa lily) and Lilium humboldtii (Humboldt lily) all to the genus Lilium and these in turn to the family Liliaceae, the lily family. The second word in the botanical name defines the respective species. It describes the origin (for example, Fagus sylvatica, ForestBeech), the size (for example, Vinca minor, Small Periwinkle) or other properties of the corresponding plant. Either at this point or as the third part of the name, which designates a subspecies, variant or variety, then often the color appears (for example, Quercus rubra, Red-Oak or Lilium shelves 'Album', white Lilium regale).

Buxus sempervirens variegata

The Latin color names are often more accurate than the German names: Buxus (book) sempervirens (evergreen) variegata (buntbl├Ąttrig) means to German only "white-leaved boxwood"

Color names at a glance

To give you a brief overview of the most common botanical color names in plant names, we have listed the most important ones here:
album, alba = white
albomarginata = white border
argenteum = silvery
Argenteovariegata = silver colored
atropurpureum = dark purple
atrovirens = dark green
aureum = golden
Aureomarginata = golden yellow border
azureus = blue
carnea = flesh-colored
caerulea = blue
candicans = whitening
candidum = white
cinnamomea = cinnamon brown
citrinus = lemon yellow
cyano = blue-green
ferruginea = rust-colored
flava = yellow
glauca= blue-green
lactiflora = milk-dairy

Paeonia lactiflora

The peony Paeonia lactiflora has milky-white petals on the outside

luteum = bright yellow
nigrum = black
purpurea = dark pink, purple
rosea = pink
rubellus = reddish shimmering
rubra = red
sanguineum = blood red
sulphurea = sulfur yellow
variegata = colorful
viridis = apple green
Other common names are:
bicolor = bicolor
versicolor = multicolored
multiflora = many-flowered
sempervirens = evergreen

In addition to their botanical name many breeding plants, especially roses, but also many ornamental shrubs, perennials and fruit trees carry a so-called variety or trade name. In the case of very old varieties, a botanical name was often used to describe the special characteristics of breeding, such as the Latin word for a color (eg 'Rubra') or a particular growth form (eg 'Pendula' = hanging). Today, the variety name is freely chosen by the respective breeder and is depending on occasion, creativity or preference often a poetic paraphrase (Edelrose 'Duftwolke'), a dedication (English rose 'Queen Anne'), a sponsorship (dwarf rose 'Heidi Klum') or a sponsor name (Beetrose 'Aspirin Rose'). The variety name is always followed by the species name in single quotes (eg Hippeastrum 'Aphrodite'). As denomination this name is in most cases protected by the breeder copyright. In the meantime, English varieties have gained acceptance among many German new breeds, as they are better marketed internationally.

Ground cover rose 'Flirt 2011®'

Developments of breeds often get their name an identifying year, as here the ground cover rose 'Flirt 2011®'

Namesake for plants

Many plants actually have a human family name as genus or species name. In the 17th and 18th centuries it was common practice for breeders and explorers to honor famous botanist colleagues in this way. Thus, the Magnolia got its name in honor of the French botanist Pierre Magnol (1638-1715) and the Dieffenbachie immortalized the Austrian master gardener of the Imperial Gardens in Vienna, Joseph Dieffenbach (1796-1863).

Magnolia Magnolia sieboldii

Sometimes the discoverer hides not in the genus, but in the species name, as Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796-1866) in the summer magnolia (Magnolia sieboldii)

The Douglas-fir owes its name to the British botanist David Douglas (1799-1834) and the Fuchsia bears the name of the German botanist Leonhart Fuchs (1501-1566). Two plants were named after the Swede Andreas Dahl (1751-1789): first Dahlia crinita, a tree species related to witch hazel, today called Trichocladus crinitus, and finally the world-famous dahlia. In some cases, the explorer or breeder himself has immortalized himself in the species name, such as the botanist Georg Joseph Kamel (1661-1706), when he called the camellia, or the Frenchman Louis Antoine de Bougainville (1729-1811), who the the same plant on his ship first brought to Europe.

These plants have their color in their name

Salvia officinalis tricolor

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Botanical color names and their meaning: botanical

Botanical color names and their meaning: their

Botanical color names and their meaning: color


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Plant colors (10)

Botanical color names and their meaning: color

Tricolor leaves with white, green and pink content: Tricolor sage (Salvia officinalis 'tricolor')

Botanical color names and their meaning: names

A white-flowered bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis 'alba')

Botanical color names and their meaning: botanical

In the case of the Funkie 'aureomarginata', slightly golden margins are drawn around the green leaves

Botanical color names and their meaning: meaning

The Bloodcurrant carries its Latin name 'sanguineum' for blood red also in German

Botanical color names and their meaning: name

Passiflora caerulea means blue passion flower

Botanical color names and their meaning: their

The Peruvian Golden ore (Pachystachys lutea) shows its bright yellow bracts in sunny places

Botanical color names and their meaning: names

The Blue Crescent (Festuca glauca) bears soft, silvery-bright flower spikes above its distinctive blue-green foliage

Botanical color names and their meaning: name

In the color tones there are gradations: This daylily (Hemerocallis) is called 'flava' (yellow), instead of 'lutea' (bright yellow)

Salvia officinalis tricolor

Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis 'alba')

Funkie Hosta fortunei aureomarginata

Ribes sanguineum

Passiflora caerulea

Peruvian gold-ear (Pachystachys lutea)

Blue winged Festuca glauca

Hemerocallis flava

Video Board: Some Flowers With Their Botanical Names, Origin, And Colors.

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