Botanical "Latin"

While tending to gesneriads being grown at Al's yesterday, Al, my friend whose gesneriads are at the greenhouse, and I had a conversation about botanical "Latin." We were potting up Sinningia leucotricha x sp. 'Doris' F3 tubers and trying to figure out what "leucotricha" really means.

Anyone who's seen S. leucotricha could identify it pretty readily, what with its distinctive silvery fluffiness and only a small crown of leaves on each stem. Many plant species are named exactly for their distinguishing characteristics--in this plant's case, it's the white hairs. Literally translated, leucotricha means "white hair." It's also not Latin, it's from the ancient Greek words λευκος and τριχος. "Botanical nomenclature" is just too large a phrase for so many people that Greek's prevalence in the system is undeservedly unrecognized. Greek is such an awesome language, though.

And I would have enjoyed a species name that provides a bit more imagery, so I crafted one myself: S. psichograia, from the ancient Greek words ψηχειν and γραια. I would translate that into "cuddly old woman." It literally means "stroke/rub down an old person," which is perhaps provides a bit too much imagery, but apparently "cuddly" isn't a word in ancient Greek, so I had to improvise. I also like to anthropomorphize plants, you may have noticed. So, I chose "old lady" to stand in for the "white hair" bit. And "cuddly" (or "stroke/rub down," depending on your predilections) to let folks know how awesome it is to touch the fuzzy plant.

I used to have a S. leucotricha x sp. 'Doris' F3 tuber of my very own--before the USDA burned the heck out of my cuddly old lady.

Yesterday, I got another one. It came from a pot that held a different Sinningia that I was repotting. It's such a tiny tuber, I potted it in a tiny tiny pot! It's so frakkin' cute. I'm suspecting one of the crosses was pollinated and dropped seed in a neighbouring pot. This tiny baby might be a S. leucotricha x sp. 'Doris' F3 F2--or it could be an F3 crossed with any number of other Sinningia in the area. On the basis of the leaf fuzziness, I'm hoping it's selfed seedling (F2). But I won't know for a while until this tiny seedling flowers!

(Post updated to reflect accurate parentage--I had been confused about what the F3 really referenced. Only the one parent, Sinningia sp. 'Doris,' is F3.)

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2 Responses to Botanical "Latin"

  1. Cute looking plant! I had a S. leucotricha once but killed it (I think it went dormant right after I bought it and I didn't know at the time that they went dormant) and someday I need to get one again. They do form nice leaves.

    I love how innocent your naming is. Compare that to some older names like orchid or avocado (from ahuácatl), yours is much more innocent. ;)

    1. Yeah, but how many people really know what "avocado" really means? That's the fun of such imaginative names!


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