Rose. Violet. Daisy. Lilly. Jasmine. Aster.
Many plants – and especially those with charming flowers – have such beautiful names that we name our kids after them.
In fact, plant names and beauty are somehow synonymous. Right?
Even Moss has some elegance to it – otherwise, people sharing their last name with this fluffy, living green sponge would swarm courts to change it!
But imagine if your name was Skunk Cabbage.
Now that would cause some funny faces in class, wouldn’t it?
While Latin names for plants are highly orderly – either given according to the plant’s botanic features or to honor a fellow scientist, things get a bit more chaotic – and amusing – with common plant names.
Most plants got these common names from ordinary people long ago – as nicknames to identify them. Some were given by botanists, too, to help non-scientific communities remember and recognize a species.
Like Latin names, many nicknames have something to do with the plant’s physical features. But, plant nicknames also relate to the plant’s uses – real or imagined. And some names – well, some just sound crazy, and we’re clueless as to how they originated!
At this point, things get funny and strange – and that is what we’re here for today.
What Are the Funniest Plant Names?
Let’s check out some of the most amusing names of the plant world. Some are picturesque. Some are sweet but misplaced. Some remind us of old traditions – and others are just plain weird.
Also, we’ll use all the fun as an excuse to learn a thing or two about these lovely plant creatures.
Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
The name of one of the showiest small landscaping trees in the US doesn’t have much to do with the beauty of its blooms (although it does acknowledge it is flowering – like 94 percent of all plants).
One theory is that it came from the Celtic word for small, pointed tool – dagge. Dogwood has distinctly hard and strong wood, traditionally used in tool making.
However, there is a sequel to the story. People used to boil the dogwood bark and used the resulting liquid for bathing dogs to treat mange. However, there is no evidence that the treatment was efficient.
It may be that the dogwood’s already existing name misled people of the old! – “They wouldn’t call it dogwood for nothing… Right?”
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Buttercup (Ranunculus sp.)
Perhaps the cutest sounding name on this list, buttercup, is a great example of how a wrong interpretation of reality can name a plant!
Buttercups are an entire family of plants, and what binds them is that they’re toxic and irritant on contact if damaged.
That happens due to the presence of ranunculin. All plant parts cause blistering in the mouth of mammals when chewed; if ingested, they cause significant stomach upsets.
What’s funny about naming the Ranunculus plants “Buttercups” is the fact that, despite their unpalatability and general avoidance by all grazing animals, people used to think that the yellow buttercups gave butter its color.
Lamb’s Quarters or Fat Hen (Chenopodium album)
Here is a plant with two commonly known funny names and more picturesque lesser-known ones such as dungweed, baconweed, or pigweed. One of the temperate world’s most common weeds was once a regular part of human and domestic animal nutrition.
That is where the nickname “Fat Hen” comes from – the plant was supposedly used to fatten up chickens. This is not so strange – because numerous seeds are loaded with protein.
And what about the Lambsquarters? Let me momentarily dispel the first obvious guess – that the plant was somehow used in the lamb butchering – there is no evidence for that (but who knows).
However, according to the “Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink,” the name first appeared in American print in 1804, derived from the name of an ancient English festival, “Lammas quarter,” held in August in honor of the first harvest.
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Sticky Willy (Galium aparine)
Another widespread (and edible) weed on our list has one of the silliest names in the plant world.
All right, I know – Sticky Willy is sticky. It has numerous tiny, hook-like hairs on its leaves and a long stem that makes it stick to your clothes like Velcro.
One of its alternative names, catchweed, describes the feeling quite well – when you run into Sticky Willy in the garden or the field, it feels like some meadow dwarf or an elf has caught you by the leg.
So, we get the Sticky part. But what is Willy all about? We don’t know, and maybe we never will(y)!
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Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)
Neither skunk nor a cabbage, the skunk cabbage is the weirdest plant on our list. By far! When bruised, the leaves release an odor – and you’ve guessed it – they smell like a skunk!
The Latin name also hasn’t spared skunk cabbage the embarrassment, as foetidus translates to ‘foul-smelling.’
Also, the stench is released when the plant is flowering, which tells a story about its evolutionary role.
As it flowers very early in the spring, skunk cabbage is not pollinated by bees or butterflies – but rather by flies and other insects that are known to be attracted by delicacies such as rotting carcasses.
While we’re talking about weird, skunk cabbage has roots that contract after growing into the earth, pulling the stem deeper into the wetland mud.
Yes, you’ve read it well – it grows downwards rather than upwards.
As if that wasn’t enough, it generates heat to melt its way out of the frozen ground!
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More Funny Plant Names
Which Plant Name Is Funniest?
No one can choose their name, and the plants couldn’t either. In both humans and plants, that can produce humorous results.
We can laugh, or we can loathe; however, the most important thing is that we appreciate all the plant life for what it is – not for what it’s called.
Thank you so much for reading!
Let us know which funny plant names you like the best?
Or – if you know of funny plants names that we missed, let us know!
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