Thursday, February 28, 2008

Pronouncing Latin Plant Names

It's amazing how kids pick up vocabulary. Some friends and I were remarking how our kids' vocabularies have expanded through reading, but since some of the words they are learning are more often read than heard, there are gaps in their pronunciation. This got me to thinking about my botanical Latin. I know most of the Latin names for the plants I grow, but mostly through reading countless books and articles about gardening. My pronunciation of some of the words is more than iffy.

As I was thinking about this the new listing of courses offered at the The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) arrived in the mail ( This September, they are offering a four week course on botanical Latin for professional and amateur gardeners. This course is aimed at teaching pronunciation and the root meaning of the words.

If you can't make it to NYBG, I also found a wonderful feature of the Fine Gardening website ( which makes available a pronunciation guide for plants included in recent issues of the magazine. This was the only site I found that says the words for you. So, like our children, I'll be brushing up on my pronunciation too.


Anonymous said...

I need that class badly. Can you imagine how our southern language struggles with those correct pronunciations? Will you pick me up and drop me off? :)

Anna-Flowergardengirl said...

I posted that I need the info and do they have it in southern--:) We speak with several more syllables down here. I'll go if you pick me up and drop me off.

Frances, said...

Great idea. Sometimes having only read the names with no helping guides to saying them leads to embarrassing moments when you are corrected by one more knowledgable while having an otherwise pleasant plant conversation.

Frances at Faire Garden

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I have my own dialect of Botanical Latin - sort of a cross between Church Latin & scientific Latin, with my own personal preferences thrown in. (I try not to take myself too seriously.) However, I do strive to prounounce correctly those plants that are named for people. (I hate having my name misprounounced.) I have to make an exception for Forsythia, unfortunately, because nobody calls it for-SIGH-theea.

Minnesota Kathi said...

How awesome! Thank you for the pronunciation guide it's just what I need. I have a sister who always uses botanical Latin so perhaps I can use some upon her this summer :).

Melanie said...

Thanks for posting that website! When people question me about the way I pronounced something I just tell them that's the way to say it with a heavy Long Island accent ;-)

thepowerguides said...

I am afraid latin names for plants is not one of my strengths using or remembering so all kudos to you for getting as far as you do

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