The meaning of Latin plant names

Handy reference for finding out what scientific plant names mean, via The Seed Site

Painting of distinguished 18th Century academic
Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist, zoologist & physician who formalised binomial nomenclature, the modern system of naming organisms

The Seed Site has a great list of the meaning of Latin plant names. I’m putting the list here as well, in case the original site ever goes offline.

  • abyssinica = from Abysinnia (Ethiopia) (North Africa)
  • acaulis = stemless
  • aestivalis = flowering in spring
  • alba = white
  • alpestris = from mountains
  • alpicola = from mountains
  • alpina = from the alps
  • altissima = tallest
  • america = from America
  • angustifolia = narrow-leaved
  • annua = annual
  • -antha = -flowered (e.g. micrantha = small-flowered)
  • arboricola = living on trees
  • arctica = from the arctic
  • arenaria = from sandy places
  • argentea = silvery
  • armata = prickly
  • arvensis = of the field
  • aurantiaca = orange
  • aurea = golden, yellow
  • australis = from the south (not necessarily Australia)
  • autumnalis = of autumn
  • azurea = blue
  • barbata = bearded, hairy
  • bellidifolia = with leaves like those of a daisy
  • borealis = from the north
  • bulbifera = bearing bulbs
  • bulgarica = from Bulgaria
  • caerulea = blue
  • caespitosa = dense
  • campanulata = campanulate, like a bell
  • campestris = of the field
  • canadensis = from Canada
  • canariensis = from the Canary Isles
  • capensis = from the Cape, South Africa
  • chilensis = from Chile
  • chinensis = from China
  • chrysantha = yellow
  • clivora = from the hills
  • coccinea = red
  • compacta = compact
  • decidua = deciduous
  • densiflora = dense-flowered
  • digitata = (leaves) like a hand, with five lobes
  • edulis = edible
  • esculenta = edible
  • farinosa = floury, powdery
  • ficifolia = like a fig leaf
  • flava = yellow
  • -flora = -flowered (e.g. viridiflora = green-flowered)
  • flore plena = with double flowers
  • florida = floriferous
  • foetida = with an unpleasant smell
  • -folia = -leaved (e.g. tenuifolia = narrow-leaved)
  • foliosa = leafy
  • fruticosa = shrubby
  • gigantea = giant
  • glabra = smooth
  • glacialis = from cold areas
  • glutinosa = sticky
  • graeca = from Greece
  • graminifolia = with grassy leaves
  • grandiflora = large-flowered
  • grandis = big
  • helvetica = from Switzerland
  • hirsuta = hairy
  • hispida = bristly
  • humilis = short
  • hyemalis = of winter
  • incana = grey
  • inodora = unscented
  • integrifolia = entire, undivided (leaves)
  • japonica = from Japan
  • lanata = woolly
  • lanceolata = lance-shaped (leaves)
  • latifolia = wide-leaved
  • longiflora = with long flowers
  • longifolia = with long leaves
  • lutea = yellow
  • macrantha = large flowered
  • macro- = large- (e.g. macrorhiza = large-rooted)
  • macrocarpa = large-fruited
  • macrophylla = with large leaves
  • macrorrhiza = with large roots
  • maculata = spotted
  • magellanica = from the south of South America
  • magenta = magenta
  • magna = big
  • majus = bigger
  • maritima = maritime, near the sea
  • maxima = biggest
  • mexicana = from Mexico
  • micrantha = small flowered
  • microphylla = with small leaves
  • millefolia = with many (thousands of) leaves
  • minima = small
  • minor = smaller
  • montana = from mountains
  • multiflora = many flowered
  • muralis = growing on walls
  • nana = small
  • nocturna = nocturnal
  • ochroleuca = cream
  • odorata = perfumed
  • officinalis = with herbal uses
  • ovalifolia = with oval leaves
  • pallida = cream
  • palustris = from marshes
  • parvi- = small- (e.g. parivflora = small-flowered)
  • parviflora = small flowered
  • parvifolia = with small leaves
  • pauci- = few- (e.g. pauciflora =few-flowered)
  • pauciflora = few-flowered
  • paucifolia = with few leaves
  • pendula = hanging
  • perennis = perennial
  • phoenicea = purple
  • -phylla = -leaved (e.g. macrophylla = large-leaved)
  • pinnata = with pinnate leaves
  • poly- = many (e.g polyantha = many-flowered)
  • polyphylla = with many leaves, leafy
  • praecox = early, of spring
  • pratensis = field
  • procumbens = creeping
  • prostrata = prostrate
  • pulverulenta = dusty
  • pumila = small
  • punica = red
  • purpurea = deep pink
  • pygmaea = small
  • quercifolia = oak=leaved
  • rediviva = perennial
  • rivalis = from near rivers
  • rivularis = from near rivers
  • rosea = rose pink
  • rotundifolia = round-leaved
  • rubra = red
  • rupestris = of hills
  • rupicola = of hills
  • russica = from Russia
  • sanguinea = blood-red
  • sativa = cultivated
  • saxatilis = of rocks
  • scaber = climbing
  • scandens = climbing
  • semperviva = perennial
  • sibirica = from Siberia
  • sinense = from China
  • somnifera = inducing sleep
  • spicata = spiked
  • spinosa = spiny
  • stellata = starry
  • sulphurea = yellow
  • sylvestris = of woods
  • tenuifolia = with thin, narrow leaves
  • texensis = from Texas
  • tomentosa = tomentose, woolly
  • trifoliata = trifoliate, with three-lobed leaves
  • umbellata = unbellate, with flowers in an umbel
  • velutina = velvety
  • vernalis = of spring
  • villosa = hairy
  • violacea = violet
  • viridis = green
  • viscosa = sticky
  • vitifolia = with leaves like a vine
  • volubilis = twining
  • vulgaris = common
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