What’s in a Name?

18 Jan
Linnaea borealis ssp. longiflora in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington, USA (photo from Wikipedia)

Linnaea borealis ssp. longiflora in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington, USA (photo taken from Wikipedia)

Linnaea borealis is one of my favorite wildflowers that can be found sprawling along mountain trails here in the Pacific Northwest, where it’s lightly fragrant flowers and small delicate airiness gives the forest an ethereal quality. Like the name states in Latin, this little evergreen perennial can be found growing throughout the boreal forests (coniferous forests) of the Northern Hemisphere. Since borealis means ‘of or pertaining to the north’, what does Linnaea mean? Linnaea borealis was name after Linnæus, a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist,  who was very fond of this flower and encountered them quite a lot on his expeditions in the Lapland of Northern Sweden.

Carl Linnæus was born May 23rd, 1707 in Småland, Sweden and had an interest in flowers at an early age. (Now, Wikipedia isn’t always right, but this time I really hope this is a true fact: “[As a child] whenever he was upset, he was given a flower, which immediately calmed him”.) This would eventually lead him to create a new system of classification called binomial nomenclature, which is the foundation of all modern day taxonomy. Like having a first and last name, scientific or Latin names always come in a pair: the ‘first name’ refers to the genus and the ‘last name’ refers to the species.

My mentor created this plant label for me when I was interning that the Smithsonian Gardens in DC last summer.

Since I enjoyed engraving labels during my internship at Smithsonian Gardens last summer, my mentor thought it would be fitting to make one for me.

I have a thing for taxonomy. It’s so much fun to see how organisms are organized, how they relate on the tree of life, and what traits do they have in common and what sets them apart. Maybe my slight OCD tendencies for organizing has to do with it too. Hmm. Probably not.

My friend Riz submitted a proposal for a display garden for this year’s Northwest Flower & Garden Show and it was accepted! As he is busy getting people and plants together for the infamous construction and install, I am helping him create plant labels (kind of like the one above) for the stunning specimens that will be showcased in the display garden. Since I’ll also be helping throughout the whole process of install, judging, and break down, I get to wear this little guy:

So official!


Check out Riz’s blog, The Next Generation Gardener, for more details on his design and plans for this year’s show and more – he blogs about all sorts of fun plant stuff!

My little Osmanthus fragrans has been blooming since November and it's fragrances is so delectable.

I know it is not much to look at, but oh the fragrance!

It’s still pretty cold outside, but the houseplants inside are happily soaking up this rare stretch of winter sunlight. One houseplant I’ll be looking forward to blooming every winter is my little Osmanthus fragrans (on the left). My little Osmanthus is a late bloomer, literally. It started out life as a cutting and it took FOREVER to root. Even after rooting it took FOREVER before it started to establish itself. To say the least, it definitely is a slow grower, but my patience was awarded (a little more than a year later), it started blooming in November and it’s still going!

This olive relative has small, pale yellow flowers that emit a soft sweet scent reminiscent of a sun-ripened apricot. Mmm mm! The delectable fragrance is good enough to eat! That’s not too far off, since many Chinese teas are blended with the  dried flowers of this species to impart a luscious floral and fruity flavor and the good blends can fetch a high price.

Fresh sunlight, what a treat!

Finally, home sweet home.

As the sun moves quickly from east to west, the rest of my houseplants get a brief burst of the sun’s cosmic rays, but my little Tillandsia (on the right) really deserves it.

I got it from work during the holiday season and it’s been drifting from place to place looking for a permanent spot in the house to live. First, it was forgotten in a paper bag for a few days and when I remembered I took it out, gave it a brief drink, and left it on a windowsill. After forgetting about it for another week I gave it another quick drink, but this time I left on the soil in one of my potted Clivias momentarily, while looking for a glass container for the Tillandsia. Sadly, it would lay there and be forgotten for two more weeks. Yesterday the sunlight slipped over my coffee table and it glinted on a soft lavender glass – it was the nice bulb vase I found on the ‘free table’ at my friend’s apartment complex in October. At that moment I realized it was the perfect shape and size for my Tillandsia! Now it’s settled in on a windowsill reaching its little “tentacles” out into the warm sunshine. I hope all is forgiven with the Tillandsia…we’ll see.

Well I think I should get started on those plant labels. Come back soon for more updates!


One Response to “What’s in a Name?”

  1. Tina January 19, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

    Clivias 🙂

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