Holiday Plants are the topic of conversation with Rachael Ashley from Story’s Nursery in Freehold, NY. She discusses the wide range of gift plants that are available throughout the year, from Valentine’s Day through the year-end holiday season. Then tune in for a great description of the Harris Conservation Area by Heidi Bock (Trekking the Trails), as she talks about amphibians including wood frogs and spotted salamanders. This episode concludes with a great insight from Jean Thomas (It’s All Greek) about the use of color in botanical names. Enjoy!
Hosts: Tim Kennelty and Jean Thomas
Guest: Rachael Ashley
Holiday Plants (Rachael Ashley) : Home (storysnursery.com)
Harris Conservation Area (Trekking the Trails with Heidi Bock) : Harris – Columbia Land Conservancy (clctrust.org) ; Winter Tracks (ny.gov) ; Amphibian Migrations and Road Crossings - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation ;
It’s All Greek to Me (Jean Thomas): Etymonline - Online Etymology Dictionary; Plant Finder (missouribotanicalgarden.org) ; Plant Information | Chicago Botanic Garden ; Gardening, Lawn, and Landscape | OSU Extension Service (oregonstate.edu)
Welcome to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. Our team's goal is to present science based information about gardening and all things nature in New York's Hudson Valley. Hosts Jean and Tim, along with team members, Teresa and Linda, are Master Gardener Volunteers for New York's Columbia and Greene counties. So if you're interested in gardening or nature or nuggets of information about what's happening outside your door, settle in, enjoy the conversation. Whatever the season, we have something to say.
Tim: I'm Tim Kennelty.
Jean: And I'm Jean Thomas.
Jean: And welcome to another episode of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. Today our guest is Rachael Ashley from Story's Nursery.
Jean: And she's going to be talking with us about holiday plants.
Tim: Yeah, it's great. I didn't realize that there were plants for every holiday. See this, I obviously don't give gifts to people.
Tim: Well, you should because Easter's coming.
Tim: Even St. Patrick's Day has a gift, you know, the gift plant.
Jean: And after we talk about a year's worth of holiday plants, we're not going to just stick to Easter.
Tim: Right. We're going to go through the whole calendar.
Jean: And then we're going trekking again with Heidi Bock.
Tim: Excellent. Yeah. She's going to talk about the Harris Public Conservation Area in Austerlitz. It's a beautiful, really pristine place.
Jean: Tim, what's a vernal pool?
Tim: Basically, it's a pool that is there in the spring. It dries up in the summer. And they're really, really important in terms of frogs and amphibians.
Jean: I went for a walk one day and there was it sounded like there were a million geese.
Tim: Yeah, yeah.
Jean: And it was a little pond and it had frogs in it.
Tim: Yes, my pond. Actually I have a small pond at my house. And it sounds like quacking ducks. I ran out there the other day. But it's wood frogs.
Tim: And the decibel level was incredible.
Tim: Yeah. So that's gonna be great to listen to. And if you want to hear wood frogs, Harris Conservation Area is, the place to go. What else? Oh, we've got your It's All Greek to Me, don't we Jean?
Jean: Yeah, we're talking about color.
Jean: It's really interesting because a lot of Latin plant names are really descriptive and do include colors.
Jean: And you can play with the names like Acer rubrum. You know, it's the ruby colored Acer, which is a maple.
Tim: I think that's gonna be really interesting one to listen to, too. I can't wait. And also one of the things we wanted to mention today is we have a new Instagram account, follow us on Instagram at Nature Calls Hudson Valley. We've got a bunch of followers and I talked about episodes that are coming up and put a lot of nice pictures of beautiful plants on it. And now that we're in a few episodes, we really want to get feedback from our listeners. We want to hear from them. We want to hear what they think and also if they have ideas for episodes and interviews and if they have Master Gardener questions.
Jean: So you can email us at ColumbiaGreeneMGV@cornell.edu. So let's listen in to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley.
Tim: Our guest today is Rachael Ashley from Story'sNursery in Freehold, a destination nursery for over 50 years. She's had 40 years of experience in the plant industry and she's seen many little plants go out in the world to an unknown fate. Okay, let's start with the easy stuff. What do you do when someone gets a dish garden or a token plant, usually a piece of ivy from a bridal shower or wedding, or you can't resist that herb plant in the produce department of the supermarket.
Rachael: Well the first thing you should do when you get a plant is I would inspect it to make sure it doesn't have any type of insects. Spider mites are one of the hardest ones to see. They look kind of look like dust on the bottom. But there's there's ones that are obvious like aphids and mealybugs. But I just make sure it's pretty healthy. Then you want to put it in some fresh soil, put it in a bright indirect light window and you're good to go. If you have a dish garden, they they're okay for probably maybe one season and then eventually you're going to have to separate all those little plants and give them all their own space.
Jean: Okay, that sounds straightforward enough. Let's get into the scary stuff. How about if we travel through a year of holidays? About the first holiday in the years Valentine's Day. We get more Cut flowers with this one. Are there particular practices we should use to make them last longer?
Rachael: The worst enemy of cut flowers is bacteria in the water. So if you take your flowers out of the water and vase and make sure you clean that every couple of days and put fresh water in there and a little bit of of the packet that they give you the flower preserver you'll last a little bit longer.
Tim: That's really interesting. We also see lots of African violets and cyclamen and miniature roses. How do I deal with those without having them die immediately?
Rachael: Well, all three of those have totally different requirements. African Violets their, they want to be out of direct light out of cold draughts, you wouldn't want to water the plant the leaves you want to water them from the bottom. They're one of the harder ones I'd say they're going to hang around a little bit longer, maybe not the flowers. Cyclamen, cyclamen like to be cool. So if you have a nice cool area to put them in there, they like bright indirect light and one of the biggest mistakes people make with them is they overwater them. They're a little bit more succulent leaves so they retain their water a little bit longer. They'd like to be a little bit more on the dry side. And miniature roses. Lots of the miniature roses are hardy if you can keep them alive until you can plant them outdoors, they're perfectly safe to put them in the ground and they're perfectly hardy. Spider mites usually a big deal with those. And in proper watering, lots of times they're grown as a gift plant. They put them in a very poor soil when you get them they're grown in basically straight peat moss, so the plant will dry out and the leaves kind of tend to brown up.
Jean: They do live forever once you get them into the garden.
Rachael: and they do like full sun. So they wanted one of those plants that like a lot of sun.
Jean: Alright, St. Patrick's Day, those cute little shamrocks, which are actually Oxalis. What can you do with them? How long do they survive? And what about the green carnations?
Rachael: Well, green carnations are dyed, they put those in a dye to make them green. The Oxalis, I know they do go through a dormant period. I want to say it's during the heat of the summer when they go into a dormancy period. And then you can just let the, they're like little rhizomes or bulbs in there and you want to just let them rest and then take them out again when it's a little bit cooler and water them and give them some fertilizer.
Tim: So they need like a rest period, do they? Or they can have like carrot little rhizomes.
Rachael: Yeah, I believe they do need a rest period. And cyclamen, they're the same way. Lots of times in the heat of the summer, the cyclamen that'll start turning yellow, and they'll die back. And if you just let it die back naturally, put it in a dark place for the summer in the hottest time of the year. Then bring that plant out that has a little corm in there, bring that out and start giving it some water and fertilizer, they'll rejuvenate.
Tim: Yeah, I think I've had like surprise spurts of growth from those. What about Easter plants, everybody buys their mom an Easter plant. Tell us about like some of the good Easter plants, some of the ones that will last for a while too.
Rachael: Easter plants. It's my worst holiday in the plant world because there's so many different crops, so many different conditions. Lots of times people do bulbs, tulips, daffodils. They're nice, because once you're done with the bulbs, you let the plant die back naturally, you put it in the garden and you've got years of enjoyment out it.
Tim: So you really can take those bulbs that were forced and put them in the garden?
Rachael: Yes, yes, yeah, no. Let them die back naturally. Easter lilies, they're also hardy to our zone as well for a few years. They usually bloom in August, but you let the plant die naturally, and then planted outdoors in your garden and you'll get a couple good years of flowering out of it. Some of the not so popular ones. Everybody comes in and purchases the hydrangeas, the big blue flower or the pink flowered in our area. They're not hardy at all. They're, they're for southern so they're probably I just consider them a gift plant. Another plant that is pretty much just to gift plant is cinerarias, or they're also they have been one it's like kind of like a hybrid, I believe it's called Senetti. We've had them at the nursery. Again, it's it's basically a gift plant and it's an annual. Once it's done blooming, the heat of the season comes in it's usually expires by then. Most people like the lilies, because they're not just white Easter lilies. There's the Mona Lisas, the Stargazers. We have pink lilies, orange pot lilies. And all those are great because they can again be put out in the garden when you're done.
Tim: And when you do put them out, you probably want to put them out someplace where the deer can eat them. Right?
Rachael: Yeah, I would think so. Yeah, I would think so. Yes. Yeah. Yeah, they do like the lowest.
Jean: Okay, so you mentioned a couple of the throw away plants that aren't really worth all the work. Did you talk about Calceolaria, pocketbook plants?
Rachael: Calceolaria, that's an old timer right? No, I haven't seen them in years. And they're again, like I said they were a gift plant. They bloom beautifully when it's cool. And then pretty much when it's done, it's done.
Jean: Okay, and what about the Easter egg egg plants and chrysanthemums?
Rachael: Chrysanthemums? They're the ones you get at Easter time, usually greenhouse grown and they're not hardy garden moms. So again, once they're done blooming, they're done. You won't get those to come back every year.
Tim: Is that true with I know you talked about how the hydrangeas were not to our zone. What about azaleas, when you get those as gift plants?
Rachael: Most of the azaleas that are available Easter time are again, annuals. They're not hardy in our area. Occasionally, you can pick up a hardy azalea that's been forced into bloom earlier. If you're looking to continue on that would be my best bet. But most of them that you're going to see available are just annuals.
Tim: And you couldn't keep that as a houseplant year round...
Rachael: Yes, I believe you could, I believe you could.
Jean: The foliage one might. Yeah. Yeah. As a foliage plant.
Tim: So what about Mother's Day plants? Mothers who garden have usually made their wishes very, very clear and already posted a list on the fridge. I think my mother used to do that, but it was probably for jewelry, not Mother's Day plants. Tell us a little bit about Mother's Day plants and what's really popular.
Rachael: Mother's Day. Everything is popular. It is the busiest weekend that we have all year. It's I guess it would be the equivalency to I call it hell week.
Jean: They do, they bring the families along.
Rachael: Oh yeah. Yeah. Yeah. People like to bring mom in and pick out her plants, which is nice, but a lot of them are not real happy about it. But yeah, there's anything goes Mother's Day. Hanging baskets, because now you're talking you're in the middle of May. So things that can be put outside a little bit early, hanging baskets, trees and shrubs. We do a lot of little container gardens with annuals in it that can be put out on the deck or on the porch. One of the biggest ones that people love are the fuchsia hanging baskets because they're so beautiful. A lot of times Azaleas are blooming then. And the rhododendron, so they they also make a nice gift.
Tim: So you have more of a chance of those having a little bit of longevity during the year, because you're at the beginning of the season.
Jean: Yes, yep. And I do have a complaint about those fuchsia hanging plants. You need to grow more. I always get there late.
Rachael: It's one of those plants, they're very tender. So they don't like to be outside and they're, they like sit like 60, 70 degree evenings. And by the time it's that time to put them out, we're way sold out, yeah.
Jean: So you know, you know that I get there late, try to save me some.
Rachael: And we actually get our fuschias from a Canadian grower. So their season is a lot later than ours. So a lot of times by the time Mother's Day comes he's not ready for them yet because he grows they're grown in Canada. So there's something that sometimes is available more towards mid end of May than they are the beginning of May. I have to beg him to get some for Mother's Day because they're just not ready.
Jean: Give me a number.
Tim: And are there Father's Day plants? I mean, I know there's gardening seems to be something that is catching on with men. There are not a lot of men Master Gardeners but are their Father's Day plants?
Rachael: Most I'd say the plants purchase for Father's Day, most it's vegetable plants. A lot of people come in for vegetable gardening because it is in June. Trees and shrubs. Fruit trees are big for Father's Day. Everybody comes in and wants to get the fruit trees for dad. Yeah, I'd say that mostly. We have a lot of men male gardeners.
Tim: Okay, good. I'm happy to hear that. They should become master gardeners, right? Are there some really hot like fruit trees are there? Like are there some that are really like Asian pears there's there's something that's really hot right now?
Rachael: All of it.
Tim: All of it.
Rachael: Yeah, we have sold more fruit trees and fruiting plants in the past two years. I mean, it was on the upswing to begin with before the pandemic. But as soon as the pandemic hit, they want to grow their own food, they want to have the security and they want to have something to do as well. But there's a big swing towards growing your own food and vegetable plants. I've been in the business for 40 years and when I first started vegetable gardening was big. And we grew tons of tomatoes. And every year it just dwindled and dwindled and dwindled to the point where our vegetable section got to be just like tomato plants, peppers and and now people are wanting the more unusual they're you know, they come in, they're like, Wow, you have celeriac, nobody grows celeriac. So we have some interesting things to contribute.
Tim: Do you have to kind of manage expectations as far as fruit trees because I mean, I've grown fruit trees and the first year you don't get a lot of fruit usually, right?
Rachael: You don't get a lot of fruit for quite a few years. It's something that you're planning for future like four or five years down the road. So yeah, you do have to kind of have a little bit of patience with it.
Tim: And do you have irate customers coming in saying where's my fruit?
Rachael: Not , not normally. More like where are your fruit trees? Last year we were sold out really, really early in the season. So...
Tim: Blueberries and bush berries and things like that, too. Raspberries. Are they still popular?
Rachael: Yes, yeah. Blueberries are one of the easiest fruiting plants to grow. They don't have too many pests, and they're pretty reliable.
Tim: A lot of acid in the soil.
Rachael: Yes, um hum.
Jean: Okay, how about the fall? We got Columbus Day and Halloween and things like that. You're not going to want indoor things. But do you have certain seasonal demand there?
Rachael: Well falls mostly all about mums, flowering kale, flowering cabbage, ornamental grasses are another one that's popular.
Jean: Are you more likely to get the perennial mums then?
Rachael: So that's a difference.
Tim: And so I'm on to Thanksgiving, because I'm thinking about eating turkey, because we're always thinking about eating here, right? Is are there plants? I wouldn't be still planting bulbs probably at Thanksgiving. But what are there Thanksgiving plants? Or is it mostly cut flowers or kind of what's the, what's the thing that's happening then?
Rachael: Thanksgiving, there's really not that much. Occasionally we'll have somebody looking for flowering kale or cabbage still available. But that's about it that time of year. It's pretty late in the season.
Jean: So you're mostly into the tabletop?
Rachael: Yes. Then you're into table arrangements. Yeah.
Jean: Okay. I guess it's time to move on to the greatest of all plant holidays, Christmas. Or whichever of the many holidays you might be celebrating at this time of year. What's the number one Christmas plant, Rachael?
Rachael: Oh, definitely the poinsettia.
Jean: Let's let's hear about the the colors that you can get in poinsettias now.
Rachael: There's a lot of new varieties and colors, it's kind of hard to keep up with. There's just the basic red, white, the marble. That was the big thing when that first came out. Pink was another variety. Now they've got all different ones. The newest one is one that's the princettias. They're kind of like a little miniature poinsettia flower. And they come in really neon pink and bright colors. Hot pink, dark pink, there's some with like pink with a splash of red on them. There's the Jingle Bells variety from back in the day, which were what which were red with some white splotches on them. So there's a lot of breeding going on with those. They're always offering new varieties.
Tim: And do I want to keep those away from my cats and dogs? Are they poisonous, pointsettias?
Rachael: They're poisonous. But in order for your animal to be harmed by it, he'd have to eat like half the plant or more. More so, they have a very milky sap. And if they were to chew on that, it's probably not going to taste good. And it's probably going to give them some discomfort in their mouth. So the chances of them eating enough that's gonna make them sick is pretty slim.
Tim: And then do I need to do something like crazy with poinsettias, like put them in a closet or something. I remember doing something
Rachael:In, in my opinion appoints that as a gift plant and you enjoy it for the holiday and you throw it away. But there are those people that want to keep it from year to year. And they want to know how how to get it to rebloom. It's not a hard thing to do. It just takes a lot of patience and you have to be attentive to it. You will treat it as a regular plant. I'd say probably around July or August, you would give it a good cut back so that it promotes some new branching and is a little stockier because they tend to grow like a vine. And then I'd say probably right around the beginning of October, you want to trick the plant into thinking that the days are getting shorter quicker than they actually are. And about every day at four o'clock in the afternoon, you need to put that plant in total darkness, and then take it out of the total darkness in the morning. Every day until initiate ...
Tim: So it is a lot of work.
Rachael: Once it initiates into start to flower, then you can just bring it out and it doesn't have to have the but it's just to get it to initiate into blooming
Tim: Or you could drive up to Story's Nursery and buy your next poinsettia.
Tim: So what are some of the other Christmas plants, traditional plants and new plants
Rachael: Cyclamens are very popular because it's a cool time of year and they do then they do well. Amaryllis bulbs are very popular. They usually come in, I would say, September, October. And there by the time we get them in from our supplier, they're almost it's almost too late to start growing them. They need a good six to 10 weeks for them to bloom. So the popularity in them is not giving it to somebody as an already flowering plant. It's giving to them as a bowl but something for them to grow for the winter. Like I said they need a good six to 10 weeks and they need a really warm start. So we sometimes start them and we'll put them in our furnace room to get them warmed up because we keep our greenhouses rather cool in the wintertime
Tim: And you can grow those year over year too, can you? I mean there's there's method I know my sister does it and she has many, many, many of them and she just has every year she has them blooming.
Rachael: Yep. And you they're there another plant that needs a little bit of a rest period. We have to let the plant rest and die back and you cut the tops off, put it someplace where it's nice and cool and dark and then take it out, fertilize it and...
Tim: Or go drive up to Story's Nursery.
Jean: That's the only way.
Tim: Yeah, yeah. For me...
Jean: I do have a poinsettia that I keep over here, year to year. I keep it as a houseplant in the winters. Plant it in the ground. For the so then I get to see it at its natural time, because it will color up then. And then I just dig it back up and stick it in the pot and put it back in and try again. And if it doesn't make it over a winter, it becomes compost. Compost is a good thing.
Rachael: And the Christmas cactuses are also popular. And a lot of people say why aren't my Christmas cactus blooming? One of the main reasons is they do need a they need a long night, like a 14 hour night. So when the days get short, and they need a cool period. So I usually tell people if they put their plant outside and just let it be natural outside and don't be so quick to bring it in in the fall. Leave it out there, let it experience some 50, 45 degree nights and that will give it a little bit of a cold period with the long nights and that should initiate it to start blooming.
Tim: It can't take frost though, can it?
Rachael: No. I mean, it won't. Frost won't kill it. But it's not going to do it any good. But if you can let it you know, cooled down to be, you know, 50, 48 degrees. That's fine. If you have a house room in your house that's a little bit cooler that you might not heat you can put it in there...
Tim: Like an unheated basement.
Rachael: Exactly. Yeah.
Tim: Well, thanks for visiting us Rachael, we'll make sure the transcript for this podcast is on the website ASAP. Might just save some lives. Some plant lives at least. Thanks again.
Rachael: Thanks for having me.
Jean: Thank you
You're listening to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley.
Stay tuned for Trekking the Trails.
Heidi: Welcome back to Trekking the Trails. I'm Heidi Bock with the Columbia Land Conservancy. And this month we'll be visiting Harris Conservation Area, a 76-acre property on Stonewall Road in Austerlitz. This site has nearly two miles of trails that take you through hemlock forests, near rocky cliffs, and a number of streams and wetlands. For this trek, we'll walk along the salamander loop, which takes us through a hemlock in mixed hardwood pine forest. Depending on the weather, if you head out on the trails this month, you may notice the trails to either be snow covered or quite muddy. So you'll want to plan accordingly.
Heidi: Harris is an excellent place for watching wildlife and snowshoeing or cross country skiing in the winter. If snow hasn't melted, you may see lots of animal tracks, which is a great way to learn what critters are living in the woods around us. There are a lot of great resources on how to identify tracks and we'll link to some in the show notes. The most common tracks you will see here at Harris are deer, raccoon, porcupine, fox and squirrels. If there's been a warm spell, you'll want to look and listen for the critters of woodland pools, also known as vernal pools. These temporary small bodies of water start to fill up from the winter snowmelt in early spring. They support an important array of aquatic life, including wood frogs and mole salamanders that need these special wetlands to survive. As you walk along, you may hear what sounds like ducks quacking. But in fact, these are male wood frogs inviting females to come to the pond to breed. Wood frogs are the mascot for Harris and are a medium size brown or tan frog with a dark mask around their eyes. Spotted salamanders on the other hand, don't make any noise, but are quite impressive when you find one. They have black chubby bodies with uneven rows of yellowish orange spots. Both of these species travel to woodland pools to mate and lay eggs, which will grow in the pool over a few months in the spring.
Heidi: Harris is an important piece of the puzzle for these critters. They only use the woodland pools for a short time in the spring, then head out to the woods to spend the rest of their lives. Unfortunately for many of these frogs and salamanders throughout the region, they often have to cross well traveled roads to get to their breeding pools. You can help them by staying home on warm rainy spring nights. Or if you want to become a volunteer with the Amphibian Migration and Road Crossing project, we help folks get out to areas where there are high concentrations of migrating critters to help them on their journey to the woodlands pools. We will put a link to that in the show notes for this project.
Heidi: For more than 30 years the Columbia Land Conservancy has worked to inspire our community to more deeply connect with, respect, and protect the natural world. We collaborate with partners and volunteers to improve the health of the land, ensure a thriving farm economy, create environmental education opportunities, provide access to outdoor experiences, and support municipal leaders and conservation-minded decision making. To learn more visit CLCtrust.org or find us on Facebook and Instagram.
You're listening to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley.
Stay tuned for It's all Greek to Me.
Jean: This is another segment of It's All Greek to Me, a look at the world of Latin jargon and acronyms in gardening. I've been thinking a lot about color lately. I'm designing a garden and I want the shrubs to have more interesting things going on than just green leaves. There are many shrubs with colorful foliage and I'm learning how the botanical names are descriptive.
Jean: Let’s start with the most obvious. We all know there are red maples. Acer rubrum means red maple. But this maple only turns red in the fall. Sometimes there’s a red tint to new leaves, but that’s the extent of it. If you’re looking for a maple that stays red the whole growing season, you can choose the equally famous Japanese maple, Acer palmatum. The word palmatum is from the root word for palm, a description of the leafbeing shaped like a hand.No mention of color in the botanical name at all. Go figure. However, most often the variety name can be descriptive, as in Acer palmatum atropurpureum “bloodgood”, which is a deep purple-red . The word atropurpureum breaks down into atro (a form of the Latin ater) and purpura or, literally black purple.
Jean: Red has lots of names in the plant world.Phaseolus( a Latin name for cowpeas, adopted by Linnaeus for all related domestic beans) pluscoccinacea (reputedly from the Greek kokka, for red) is known in English as scarlet runner bean.
Jean: Another red is indicated by the word puniceus. This word is connectedto the color red by a convoluted historical trail leading back to the ancient Phoenicians, AKA Punic people, AKA the purple people because they traded in the dyes that made then rare red- purple dyes that made this red-purple color. So, there is an aster formerly known as aster puniceus, native to the eastern part of the US, named for its reddish purple stems. Here’s where things get sticky… the scientists recategorized it from the aster genus to the symphyotrichum genus, so now it’s symphyotrichum puniceus . What happened here is a result of DNA research by botanists. They found that most North American native asters aren’t related to the European and Asian Asters, so the “new world asters” got shuffled into a different genus. This was done so recently that most of us didn’t even know about it. So we’re in on a plant world scoop. I’m not sure how much I like it, though. I’m still a little bit peeved from when they changed the brontosaurus (a perfectly good name) to Apatosaurus. But that’s progress. You can’t please everyone.
Jean: Let’s try for yellow. “Aureum” means golden, so if you look at a plant name that includes “aureum” that’s a clue that there will be yellow coloring in the leaf, stem or flower. Lysimachia nummularia “aureum”, for example. Lysimachia is from the core words lysis ‘release from’ andmache ‘strife’. Mummularia (from the core “small coin”) and ‘Aureum’ (from the core word for gold). So: the common name for the whole genus is Loosestrife, an uncommon literal translation of the Genus name, and this particular one is describing the small golden coin- shaped flowers. The plant is commonly called moneywort or creeping jenny.
Jean: Another hint that there will be yellow coloring is the descriptive ‘lutea’ (from the core Latin word Lutum, a weed used in dying things yellow).
Jean: The more you peek behind the curtain of etymology (the study of the origin of words), The more often you will find redundancy. Plants are often described as similar to another kind of plant or referring to a geographic location or a person’s name. So binomial nomenclature could probably be a great deal more precise, but what fun would that be?
Jean: How about white? Lots of plants have white flowers and many gardeners are partial to the idea of an all white garden. The easiest way to find a clue that a plant has white flowers or foliage is to look for the term ‘albus’ or ‘alba’ somewhere in the formal Latinized name. If you grow roses, you already know about this. Roses often carry the name ‘alba’ for their white flowering varieties and hybrids.
Jean: Salix (willow) alba (white) is the white willow. Pretty straightforward, eh? The name translates directly in English to “white willow’. This refers to the fact that the underside of the leaves appears to be white.Another mouthful that’s easy to interpret if you speak Greek is the common Leucanthemum vulgare. This is the familiar oxeye daisy that grows wild just about everywhere. Leucanthemum breaks down into ‘leuc’ (white) and anthemon (flower). Then we switch from the Greek to Latin… vulgare (common, or vulgar). So here we have the common white flower, AKA daisy!
Jean: We’ll look at some other color-oriented terminology next time.
That concludes another episode of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. We'd like to thank Sandra Linnell and Devin Connolly from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene counties for production support. And a special thank you to our listeners for joining us on this episode of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. You can find links to any of the topics mentioned in this episode at our website at CCEcolumbiagreene.org. Comments and suggestions for future topics may be directed to us at ColumbiagreeneMGV@cornell.edu or on the CCE Master Gardener Volunteers of Columbia and Greene County's Facebook page. For more information about Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene counties, visit our website at CCE Columbia green.org or visit us in Hudson or in Acra. Cornell Cooperative Extension provides equal programming and employment opportunities.
Last updated May 3, 2023