Plant nomenclature can be like that. When it comes to common names for plants, it can be easy to confuse Bill with Ben.
Take the star of today’s post: Snottygobbles. I, um, skidded across this name while wearing my freelance hat. The subject was an object fashioned from kou wood, and I needed to know more to write about it. In such cases, Google is my friend, and lead me to the kou tree (Cordia subcordata) on Wikipedia. One of its alternative common names was listed there as snottygobbles.
Apparently, this all-too-descriptive epithet (related to the mushy fruit) is also applied to the parasitic twiner Cassytha filiforma and to the shrub Persoonia saccata. Leave it to Australians, they of fair dinkums and billabongs (billandbenabongs?), to come up with such a corker. So I ask you: is snottygobbles Bill or is it Ben?
What does this have to do with Toronto gardens?
If you want to be certain you’re getting the real thing for your garden, Latin is a must. Need to see a more mundane example? Gillyflower: a lovely, romantic name. But for which flower? Encyclopedia Britannica Online has this to say about that:
[it’s] any of several scented flowering plants, especially the carnation, or clove pink (Dianthus caryophyllus), stock (Matthiola incana), and wallflower (Cheiranthus cheiri). However, the gillyflower of Chaucer, Spenser, and Shakespeare was the carnation. Other plants that are types of gillyflower are dame’s gillyflower, also known as dame’s violet (Hesperis matronalis); mock gillyflower, also known as soapwort or bouncing bet (Saponaria officinalis); feathered gillyflower, also known as the grass or garden pink (Dianthus plumarius); and sea gillyflower, also known as the thrift or sea pink (Armeria maritima).
One name. Six (or seven, depending how you add them up) possible secret identities. Is it Bill or is it Ben?
So, gardeners, when you need to be really, really sure what you’re getting, speak Latin.
And, even more important: when weeding, semper ubi sub ubi*!
(*Translation: Always. Where. Under. Where.)