Back to Back Issues Page
What's In A Name
February 15, 2010

If you haven't participated in the 'Great Backyard Bird Count', you still have the rest of today (Monday).

Welcome new readers.

Please stick around as we continue to grow and hopefully become friends.

February is whizzing by.

The the month is half gone already.

You can almost smell it?

Spring that is.

If you had romantic plans for this past weekend, I hope they went well for you.

Today (Monday) is presidents day here in the U.S.of A.

Do you remember when we paid respects to Lincoln on his birthday (Feb. 12) and Washington on his day (Feb. 22)?

Now it is packaged into one day (a Monday of course), so government workers, some schools and a few others have another excuse for another three day weekend.

Such is life.

We ended up with 10 inches of snow this past week from the same system that buried much of the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond.

I must say, I am almost jealous.

Two major storms back to back like that.

One thing.....................................

The snow would be here for the duration.

Have you managed to dig out yet?

Snow always brings bird activity and this week was no exception.

We were blessed with our usual batch of birds as I tried to keep feeders and feeding areas cleaned off.

We also had a batch of early evening visitors that don't show up all the time.

They for sure don't show up in great numbers.

Needless to say, I had to make a mad dash outside with some cracked corn to feed the ducks.

I know, I'm an old softy :-)

If you want more birds, try placing your feeders closer to protection.

You may consider tossing some seed and feed on the ground under some shrubs or trees.

While many birds are conditioned to come to our feeders, they are by nature ground feeders or feed close to the ground.

By tossing some of their favorite groceries on the ground, you will add to your bird collection and the birds also feel at ease.

You may find you attract more Juncos, Jays, Chickadees, doves and Cardinals.

Don't be surprised if some finches join in.

I also attract Tree sparrows (along with the other ones).

Depending where you live, you may attract White-crowned sparrows, song sparrows and others species of birds that prefer the ground.

And get more of them.

If I didn't offer goodies for the ground feeding birds, I would not get what I get.

To live in suburbia a couple hundred yards away from a woods and maybe 300 yards from the field, with other people feeding birds.....................................

We do quite well as far as attracting birds.

On any given day, we have counted as many as 15 pair of Northern cardinals, and that is because I offer ground food in several locations.

When I simply use feeders, I have but a few pair.

What remains on the ground, the rabbits get over night.

If you have concerns about seeds sprouting when the weather gets warmer...............

You can nuke them about a pound per minute.

This will kill off 99.9% of the germination process without harming the seed or making them of less value for your birds.

Cool off before you offer it to your feathered friends.

Where you have deep snow, offer grit to your birds.

Grit can be as simple as cleaned and crushed egg shells.

Birds need grit to help grind up seeds to aid digestion and there isn't much to find when there is several inches of snow covering the landscape.

Feel free to mix it with the bird feed or offer a separate dish near your feeders.

The picture of the Mourning dove is a bit of a show off picture for me.

Notice the detail of the snow flake on its back.

This gives you a bit of an idea on how well they are insulated from the cold.

This is the last letter in the series on plants.

I hope you weren't to bored and possibly learned some useful if not informative tidbits.

Today, is what's in a name.


Plant nomenclature, the scientific system of naming plants, is fundamental to the language of horticulture.

Plant nomenclature enable us to communicate effectively with others throughout the world.

It is often used among horticulturists, nursery people, Some garden clubs and maybe a know it all from time to time.

Through this system, organisms are hierarchically classified into increasingly specific groupings.

The seven basic taxonomic categories are: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species; kingdom being the broadest category, and species being the most specific.

Under our modern system of plant nomenclature, each plant has one worldwide accepted name.

Therefore, for each scientific name there is only one plant to which it is correctly applied.

Compared with the common names, this is huge, as it prevents misunderstandings and allows for efficient communication.

I can now talk plants to people in the south and west.

I can even talk plants to people in Asia, Europe, Africa, South America and Australia.

Osmunda regalis is referred to a Tree fern, Royal fern, Bracken fern, Swamp onion, Snake fern and several others local and regional names.

This happens with several plant species and can get down right confusing for others.

Depending where we live, you may not have a clue what I am talking about.

Thus, we have scientific names.

Before the development of the nomenclature system we have today, scientists referred to individual plants by means of a polynomial (short written description).

Cumbersome and awkward, the polynomial system still lead to debate and confusion.

Fortunately, the polynomial descriptions were eventually replaced with a binomial or binary system developed by the late great Swedish naturalist Carl von Linne (1708-1778).

(Carl renamed himself in Latin becoming Carolus Linnaeus.)

Linnaeus used the traits of plants, flowers structures and foliage as a means of classifying them.

In 1753, he published his monumental book 'Species Plantarum', in which he presented his binomial (two-word) system of clarification.

With his system, he assigned a binomial (a name consisting of two parts) to each plant.

The first word in the name referred to the genus or genera (generic name), such as Quercus (oaks)

Acer (maples) and so on.

Each genus contains more than one species.

The second part of the binomial, the species, is not considered a name, but rather an epithet-a descriptive attachment that further describes a member of a genus.

In effect, the specific epithet defines the plant in "more specific" terms.

Together, the genus name and specific epithet define a given species.


Quercus rubrum......... Red oak.

Acer sachurum......... Sugar maple.

When reading or writing scientific plant names, keep in mind that they must be distinguished from the words that surround them by either underlining, italicizing, or setting in bold type.

(Yeah, like I do this all the time.)

The genus name always begins with a capital letter, and normally the specific epithet begins in lower case.

Sometimes an abbreviated or full last name will follow the specific epithet, indicating the botanist who named the plant.

Example: Coreopsis verticillata L. implies that Linnaeus had named the plant.

You will find several plants with the discoverer's name involved.

Phlox davidii, Euonymus fortunei, Salvia greggii are but a few examples.

When naming plants, the person's last name (David, Fortune, Gregg, etc.) almost always ends with an ei, i or ii

In cases where the same scientific name is used more than once in a discussion, after the first reference, the genus is abbreviated with the capital letter that it began with (e.g. Quercus rubrum the first time and Q. rubrum thereafter).

Scientific plant names, in an effort to avoid confusion among the various modern languages are typically derived from Latin or Greek.

They have been chosen for various reasons, and often are descriptive of some aspect of the plant.

For example: Acer rubrum Red maple.

Acer which comes from Latin and means hard- in reference to the hardness of the wood.

Rubrum comes from the Latin word rubor, red and refers to the redness of its autumn leaves.

Scientific names may also indicate a plant's origin A. japonicum Japanese maple.

Yes, it is Greek to me as well, but in time you will learn to understand certain names and epithets.

Bunda... abundant

Annus... annual

Semper... always

Vivum... alive

Nana... dwarf

Boreal... northern

Occidental... from the west

Officinallis... medicinal

Rugosa... wrinkled

Dentata... toothed

Globosa... round

This is an easy one, "Hens and chicks'................. Sempervivum globiferum.........meaning "always alive and round or globe shaped" for this species.

Plants that result from interbreeding of separate species (within the same or between different genera) are called hybrids.

If a plant is the result of cross pollinating two separate species, within the same genus, the resulting hybrid is designated as such by a multiplication sign (x) between the genus name and the specific epithet.

For example: Vibunum x juddii is the result of crossing V. Carlesii with V. bitchiuense.

If the hybrid were the result of two plants from different genera, the (x) would be placed before the genus name.

Cultivar names consist, preferably, of one or two words, but may legitimately contain three.

Echinacea purpea 'Kim's Knee High'

E. purpea 'Razzmatazz'

They are capitalized and usually surrounded by single quotation marks-or preceded by the abbreviation cv. For cultivar.

Plants are hybridized daily.

New cultivars are found.

Plant names are changed.

There you have it

What's in a name?



But a necessary language.

Sometimes you will run across a show off or you may want to show off a bit yourself.

Either way, it is nice to know a few basic names.

It's the person that thinks they know it all, that is dangerous and I surely don't know that much on names.

A person would have to be a specialist on a certian species to know the all names of that particular genus.

People that work in the horticulture industry know several basics, but don't expect them to know it all.

By the way, the governing body on plant nomenclature meets every four years to discuss names, groupings, species etc.

You will find from time to time that plants change names...........

Now you know why.

Well <>, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest accomplishment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.

Leo Buscaglia

Read that again

Can you imagine, the possibility of turning around a human life with a kind word, a touch or a smile.

Showing you really care.

What power and potential you have and hold for others.

Leo Buscaglia, PhD - the author of books such as Living, Loving and Learning and Born for Love, renowned lecturer, and University of Southern California professor - touched untold numbers with his insights into how we seek happiness and create loving relationships.

Leo Buscaglia was a cheerleader for life. "Life is a banquet," he would say, quoting from the movie "Auntie Mame," " and most poor fools are starving to death."

He was most closely associated with the topic of love and human relationships, emphasizing the value of positive human touch, especially hugs.

He died of a heart attach in 1998 at the age of 74.

Some where in the mid 1990's I came across Leo Buscaglia quite by accident.

I purchased a tape set titled 'Living, Loving and Learning' (before that, I had never heard of the man).

Why did I buy the tapes?

The title intrigued me.

I was doing some soul searching I suppose.

Before that, I had never heard of the man.

After listening to it a couple of times, I knew the man was genuine.

I also knew he was right on.

God gives us the talents and abilities.

He wants for us to help others.

Sometimes the help can be a kind word or a touch.

God also gives us love and commands for us to love others.

Sometimes a simple smile is all it takes.

This is one reason why I end most letters with a smile and suggest you smile and to share it.

Mr. Buscaglia refers to being a tactile person, one who touches others.

I too am a tactile person.

I need to feel and touch, whether it is a hug or a simple hand on the shoulder.

Society today has backed off from kindness and a simple touch.

Research also shows the need for both.

Touch a life.

Make a difference.

With a kind word, like good job today, you look nice or even a thank you. (maybe an I love you one more time)

Maybe with a touch, A hand shake, a pat on the back or maybe a head rub with a smile, (maybe one more kiss or hug).

This is why you guys are the best,

Smile and be sure to share it.

Share you smile with a stranger this week.

You never know what life altering effect you may have.

Until next time.



"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

Back to Back Issues Page