Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Names of Flowers

Every plant has its own botanic name which was given when it was first discovered.  The botanic name is universal, however, we don’t call plants by botanic name but by common name.  I often find it interesting to know how the common names are created  in the different culture, traditions, or regions.  They are mostly named from their appearance, legends, folklore, or mythology.

In these photos, are there any flowers or grasses you know the name?  I only know "dandelions/たんぽぽ", "clovers/クローバー", and "common vetch/カラスノエンドウ".   I like to listen to the chorus of tiny little nameless flowers and grasses.

Names of Flowers

I don’t know the names of flowers
other people know.
I know lots of names of flowers
No one else knows.

You see, I gave them to them...
Names I like to flowers I like.
The names for flowers people know
Someone gave them, anyhow.

 The sun alone, up in the sky,
Knows what each name really is.

So I call them what I like.
Just me....  Names I like....

(translated by D.P.Dutcher)

One of the related posts about "names of flowers" for your interest: 


  1. Beautiful photos and poems.
    Wish you a wonderful day.

  2. Dandelion [Taraxacum officinale] is known either als as "Loewenzahn" or "Kuhblume" in German. Literally you may translate "Löwenzahn" as "tooth of a lion" and "Kuhblume" as "cow flower"... ;-).
    Clover is "Klee" in German, there's no deeper meaning for that expression.
    You forgot to mention one plant that is on all of your photos. But it is that common, that normally nobody notice it: grass!


    Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.

    Shovel them under and let me work--
    I am the grass; I cover all.

    And pile them high at Gettysburg
    And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
    Shovel them under and let me work.
    Two years, ten years, and the passengers ask the conductor:
    What place is this?
    Where are we now?

    I am the grass.
    Let me work.

    by Carl Sandburg

  3. Hello Yoko:
    Knowing the botanical names for plants is very useful if you are searching for a particular named variety or, indeed, are in a foreign country and then the name still remains the same. As Latin scholars in our youth, we are also fascinated to see how the botanical name really does describe the form or colour of the plant.

    However, as you say, it is also most intriguing to know common names and to wonder how such names have come into being through the ages.

  4. Hej Yoko, beautiful poem and lovely photos.

    Dandelion is special, Danish name Løvetand (tooth of lion) is like German, we also call it the Fandens Mælkebøtte (Devil's milk bin, but it has got many names in folklore. No other plant in the Danish flora has got so many names. Monk's crown, Hare-cabbage, Troll's witch, Dog's tooth, Magic cows, Wizard's herb, Flea herb, Devil's suck-tits! Tailor's seed, Cat's herb, Scabies-flower, ( it was said to give scabies) Swine-milk, Devil's milk-cow, Lice king, Cheese herb, Milk rose, Snake flower, Milk thistle etc. etc.
    There are so many, some of them might seem sensible, others rather strange. The pale bottom of the fruit was compared to a monk's crown, therefore it had several names referring to a monk. Names like Swine thistle and Cow's herb referred to that these animals loved to eat the dandelion, and the plant was said to promote the milk. There are lots of names with witchcraft and wizards.

    It was used against witchcraft in folk medicine. And against many diseases. The root is still sold in pharmacies. But i'ts a long and winding story!!

    Grethe `)

  5. Whenever I see one of your posts pop up, I find myself smiling. In Latvian, the dandelion has a totally different name. It is called 'pienenīte', because of the milk that drips from it's stem when you pick it. Botanical names are great because no matter where we come from and what language we speak, we at least know what plant we are speaking of.

    Have a happy week!

  6. My daughters really like たんぽぽ、クローバー and からすのえんどう。 They always gather them when they come across them.
    They make charms from クローバー.

  7. 名前の知らない小さな花はたくさんあります。一括して野の花と呼ばれるより、それぞれの存在が認められているようでうれしいですよね。


  8. Yokoさんは 素朴な野の花がお好きですね! おかげで、私も徐々にその可愛さに気づき始めました。金子みすずさんも身の周りの自然や人に愛情溢れた目を向け、繊細で優しい言葉で韻を踏んだ可愛い詩を沢山残されていますね。そんな彼女が娘の親権を求めて自死を選んだ事をこの度知って、可哀そうでなりません。小さな可憐な花が周りのぞんざいな人に踏み滲まれたような寂しさがあります。

  9. Sometimes it takes all the loveliness out of flowers by knowing their scientific names. On the other hand by knowing it, we know their origin, person of discovery and others. I love the quote from 'cosmos' that "Rather then knowing the flowers name, love the beauty of lowers as it is" so true...

  10. I was talking to a Japanese friend and she told me some Japanese popular names and expressions that are similar to English names and expressions.

    There were several of them, including flower names, but the phrase which really interested me was the Japanese equivalent of expression "a fox's wedding," That describes the weather raining when the sun is shining, She said it was called something similar in Japanese. Did I really understand that correctly?

  11. Uwe - Thank you for the introduction of the poem “Grass” by Carl Sandburg. I’m not well equipped to interpret it, but I think the meaning is deep. Grass is thriving and without human maintenance, it covers everything. This poem reminded me of the haiku poem by Basho:
    “The summer grass- It is all that's left of ancient warriors dreams”

    Jenny – Yes, you understood it correctly. “A fox’s wedding” is equivalent to Japanese 狐の嫁入り, which literally means “female fox marrying a man” and is sun shower as meteorological phenomenon. It’s interesting to know sun shower is described as animal's wedding in some cultures. Maybe, sun shower is marriage of the sun and the rain?

  12. オオッ、これは面白い見方ですね!!学術名を見ると素晴らしい花もあっという間に色あせてしまうような感じがします。このところ、花や植物をカタカナ表示するのも気に入りません。レンゲ 蓮華、サクラ 桜、カタカナ名のなんと無機質なこと。

  13. Znać pochodzenie nazw kwiatów to ciekawe , ale i tam się wszystkiego nie zapamięta. Trawa to natomiast to nazwa jedyna, powszechnie używana. Pozdrawiam.
    Know the origin of the names of flowers is interesting, but there does not remember everything. This grass is the only name commonly used. Yours

  14. Que preciosidade!!!
    Beijinhos do Brasil.

  15. It's a beautiful poem, and very true. Did you know that Cape Town (故郷!) in South Africa has some of the richest flower biodiversity in the world? It's a World Heritage Site called the Cape Floral Kingdom. You can read about it here.

    So ... South Africa has so many names for its flowers, in all 11 official languages, plus many regional names that only local residents know! ^^

  16. The English "Dandelion" is from the French "Dent de lion", lion's tooth, from its jagged edged leaves. The leaves used to be popular in salads. They are a diuretic and that gives rise to the common English name of "Pee-the-bed" for the plant. Sorry to lower the tone but you did ask!

  17. Love the poem. Why should we let other people name the flowers we like? Of course, it could get a little confusing if everyone had their own name for say, roses!

    But a lot of the botanical names I can't even pronounce much less remember. I identify most flowers by phrases such as, "I like that red thing over there." Or, "That's a pretty purple posey in the park."

    It's a lovely post, Yoko. And, as usual, your photos are magnifique!

  18. Lovely photos and poem - in England we call the dandelion when in seed a ' dandelion clock'. Children blow it and count the time until all of the seeds have vanished. i.e. one blow one o'clock etc. It teaches them the idea of time, and a way to learn their numbers.

  19. Flower is really lovely and beautiful...

  20. 金子みすずさんの詩はいいですね。この記事にまさにぴったり。野の花をじっくり眺めると、それぞれが可憐で個性的。雑草なんて呼んだらいけませんよね(反省)。どの写真も本当に美しい!

  21. Yoko,it's always a pleasure to look at wild flowers whether or not the names are known.Thanks for sharing these.

    Enjoy your week!

  22. you are so right about flower names in different languages...sometimes I aa amazed how some herbs have exactly the same common name in pretty far from each other languages like German and Bulgarian (my mother tongue)...I love the dandelions when they get fluffy:-)happy weekend from me!

  23. おもしろいですね。自分勝手に名前をつける事ができたら。そのために、もっと細かくその花を観察するようになるでしょう。

  24. I like poetry as well. I did not know about this poet until now. I am sorry about the sad ending to her short life. But I am deeply happy that her poems are kept alive by people like you. Thanks.
    You ask about Houston climate. Yes, gardeners here can grow a lot of variety. Everyone says that they are at a geographical crossroads, but Houston really is at a big crossroads. Any farther north and we cannot grow very many tropical plants. Any farther South and the pine trees stop. Any farther west and it gets much, much drier. Eastward does not change much until you go south in Florida. Then it gets much warmer by Miami and Ft.Myers.
    I think we are like Okinawa in some ways and like the very tip of Kyushu. Palm trees are one of my favorite and that is an easy way to tell if the climate is the same. Do they have palm trees in southern Kyushu? Besides Japan, I have studied the coast of China for many years trying to find a twin climate city. We are a little warmer than Shanghai, but we are colder than Hong Kong. So maybe Wenzhou and Ningbo and Fuzhou are similar to Houston. We very rarely get snow, but when we do all the schoolchildren get a holiday! We do get frost & cold most winters, but not much compared to northern states in the U.S.

  25. °`♥✿✿⊱╮

    Bom fim de semana!

  26. Tiny little gems you're finding nearly hidden in the grasses. My little granddaughter wants to know the "correct" names for wildflowers. She's amazed when I don't know some of them. She's only 5 but already may know more than I do! I like the sentiment in the poem.

  27. I love the photos and the poems. What a delightful idea to give flowers names that have meaning to you!

  28. こんにちは。千周クリンソウの群生地に行って来ました。五重塔の九輪を思い出して観察しました。


  29. Lovely!
    Now I shall look for more poems by Misuzu Kaneko.

  30. Thank you Friends for the comments and interesting talks about the names of flowers.

    snow-white - 雀の帷子、初めて知りました。草の名前どころか、帷子が何であるかがわからなければ、なぜそう呼ばれてるのかもわかりませんね。 エノコログサ(別名、猫じゃらし)もなぜそういう名前なのか調べてみると、花穂が犬の尾に似ているので、”いぬっころくさ”からエノコログサになり、漢字では狗(犬)尾草と書くようなのです。 英語のfoxtailと同じ発想です。 

    minoru - ニワゼキショウ(庭石菖)は草菖蒲とも言うんですね。コウゾリナは漢字ではどう書くのか調べましたら、「剃刀菜・顔剃菜」でした。ありがとうございます。

  31. David – There are many palm tress not only in Kyushu but also in the southern warmer prefectures along the Pacific Ocean. Japan’s summer is hot and humid. Temperature soars into as high as 35 degrees C. Maybe we have the same climate in summer.

  32. Such gorgeous wildflowers. And how lovely to call them with our own secret names...

  33. Making new names for plants and animals is so childishly fun ^^ My husband and I often do it when we don't know the real name of something in each other's languages. And even if we know, sometimes it's more interesting to make your own.

    Russian name of dandelion - oduvanchik - comes from "to blow". In Finnish it's 'voikukka'- "butter flower" (I guess because it's yellow like butter?)

  34. Oh, Yoko, you bring back so many memories!! :)
    When I was in high school, we had to learn pages with plants Latin names, for our botany classes. We hated our teacher for that and maybe that's the reason I now only remember a few of them. Too bad!
    Dandalion(or "Păpădie")has a lot of popular names in Romania also, but I like that its Latin denomination - Teraxacum Officinale means "official remedy for diseases" expressing its general, miraculous effects and properties on both human and animal health. We use it in salads (leaves), for medicinal purposes and also makes a great honey-like syrup. And clovers, how frantically we searched for a four-leaf ones as children, because they were supposed to bring good luck?

    The poem of Misuzu Kaneko is very beautiful in its simplicity and truthfulness! All names are nothing but conventions so that we all have a landmark to refer to. So why shouldn't we let the flowers speak to us personally and discover a more meaningful name for them, and use it... just for us? Bind the relationship even closer and tighter, through their "taming" as the Little Prince did with his rose?

    When I think about popular names for plants, for a reason I don't understand yet, the idea of "the things true names" from "Tales from Earthsea" also comes into my mind. I believe ancient names were not given accidental, instead they carried the essence of each plant's gift and usage. Too bad more of us lose interest in learning their "true names" and by that depriving themselves of a life lived in health and harmony.

  35. roxana - When I saw “Tales from Eathsea”, I was reminded of this poem “Names of Flowers” by association regarding true names. Though I started this post with the “knowledge of names of flowers”, what I really meant is the sentiment and the message conveyed in the poem, and I know you understand.

  36. Excelentes fotografias de belas flores....

  37. I spotted some clover, however for me it does not matter if we do not know all the names, they are still beautiful.

  38. Beautiful photos, Yoko :)
    I love the strength and charm of wildflowers, and appreciate how they make such beautiful sights for us to enjoy.

    It is a lovely poem, thanks for sharing!

  39. Very nice and very reflective. It's interesting how the same plant has so many names in different countries. It can be confusing especially with the different languages. All my best. Chris

  40. Great verse and pictures. Thanks for sharing these.


Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. I will visit your blog shortly. Have a nice day!