Despite obvious differences between species of the plant and animal Kingdoms, these two categories do share some things in common. Never is that more apparent than when looking at plant nicknames that are derived from animal names.
When choosing new plants for your secret garden, you may care about the look of your new plants just as much as you care about the story behind them. That’s why we’re presenting you with this guide to 10 plant names with surprising backstories.
Ready to discover your newest gardening obsession? Keep reading for everything you need to know about the flowers, bushes, and herbs named after fauna.
Conversation-Starting Plant Nicknames
While scientific names are great tools to help you identify different plant species, nicknames are what you remember them by. Check out our list for some of the most unique animal-derived plant nicknames.
1. Alocasia AKA Elephant’s Ear
A nickname for both Alocasia and Colocasia plants, Elephant’s Ear is a medium-sized plant that is known for its rare flowers and exotic-looking leaves. The plant gets its nickname from its broad, veinous leaves. To learn more about the Elephant’s Ear and how you can use it in your garden, check out this guide.
2. Buddleia AKA Butterfly Bush
Butterfly Bush is a medium-sized shrub that produced beautiful and bright blooms. From purple to red to rainbow, the Butterfly Bush isn’t just magnetic for the human eye. Butterflies and birds love this flowering bush, too.
The Butterfly Bush got its name from the magnetic way its honey-scented flowers attract butterflies. That’s why this plant is popular with butterfly gardeners in all parts of the world. Some gardeners even find that specific colors attract different species of butterflies.
3. Dracocephalum AKA Dragonhead
If you’ve never heard of Dragonhead in North America, that’s because this herb grows natively in Eastern Asia and Europe, Russia, and Ukraine. The lemon-flavored leaves are harvested for their natural essential oils while the vibrant purple-blue blooms are a beautiful addition to any spring garden.
The name Dragonhead is a direct translation of this plant’s Latin scientific name. But it was also chosen to describe the dragon-shaped bloom that heads this gorgeous plant. Bees are highly attracted to these beautiful flowers, making Dragonhead perfect for nectar gardens.
4. Stachys AKA Lamb’s Ear
Lamb’s Ear is an herbaceous perennial with a unique appearance and texture to its silver-green leaves. A beautiful addition to any garden, this plant isn’t just the perfect low-growing addition to your ornamental edgers. It’s also known for its medicinal benefits.
People have used Lamb’s Ear for hundreds of years as an:
Yet one of the most interesting qualities about Lamb’s Ear is the reason for its nickname. The leaves of this plant are soft and fuzzy to the touch and shaped like the drooping, oval-shaped ears of a lamb.
5. Lychnis AKA Catchfly
Also referred to as Royal Catchfly, it’s easy to understand why this plant developed its nickname. The vibrant pink, red, and orange flowers contain a sticky calyx at their center. And the plant uses this to trap small insects as prey.
6. Artemisia AKA Wormwood
Absinthe drinkers and fans alike will know Wormwood from its association with the bitter green drink. But plant enthusiasts will know it better for its soft and vibrant leaves that look great as a filler for any garden.
Unlike most of the other plants on this list, Wormwood didn’t get its nickname from the way the plant looks. Instead, medieval peoples named the plant “weremod,” which roughly translates to “man mood.” It’s thought then that the plant was named for its mood-altering qualities.
7. Tradescantia AKA Spiderwort
Spiderwort or Spider Lily is a flowering perennial with bright purple blooms. This plant is a stand-out for flowering gardens and is also loved for the bead-like pods that form in place of the flower after blooming.
But the reason this plant is called Spiderwort is even more intriguing than the plant itself. When you trim the stems of the Spiderwort, the plant secretes a thick white substance. After hardening, the Spiderwort’s secretions look like silky spiderwebs.
8. Digitalis AKA Foxglove
The scientific name of Foxglove actually makes more sense than its cute little nickname. Digitalis roughly translates to “finger” and refers to the fact that the thimble-like buds easily fit over the tip of the finger.
Yet the reason behind this plant’s nickname is a bit more elusive. Etymologists have proposed that Foxglove is simply a combination of fox and glove while others suggest it has a more whimsical origin.
Recent research suggests that Foxglove originally came from Folk’s glove, folk referring to the Fair Folk, better known as faeries. This one is a top contender considering that the plant was named during medieval times when faerie stories were a big part of the culture.
9. Aruncus AKA Goatsbeard
Goatsbeard has been known by many names over the years including the quaint nickname, Bride’s Feathers. Surprisingly, this perennial is in the same family as the rose bush. But you wouldn’t know by the frilly white blooms that give the Goatsbeard its most common nickname.
10. Acanthus AKA Bear’s Breeches
An eye-catching perennial, Bear’s Breeches are large flowering plants known for their beautiful, glossy leaves. Many gardeners choose this plant for the leaves themselves. But the tall white and purple flowers are also a show stopper.
You’ll find Bear’s Breeches in three categories:
- Hungarian Bear’s Breech
- Common Bear’s Breeches
- Spiny Bear’s Breeches
The Bear’s Breeches got its name because the flower stalk’s leaves curve in the manner of a bear claw. How “bear claw” turned into Bear’s Breeches we aren’t so sure. We’ll leave that one up to your imagination.
Pick Up Your Animal-named Plant Today!
If you’re searching for a unique new addition to your garden, plant nicknames give you a story to tell your guests next time you’re showing off your garden. Make sure to pick up your conversation-starter today from a nursery near you!