We use latin names here on the cactus blog, but this is apparently a controversial issue. We often get people at the nursery asking for something by a common name, and all too often they’ve made up the common name themselves! Really, it’s true. And that’s the thing about common names, there are often many common names for a single plant and many plants have the same common names. So what to do?
Why do you ask?
But Charles Reynolds in Florida has put together a list of common names that are problematic.
When it comes to palms, there are evidently hordes of people to whom anything green must be a palm.
As evidence I present these non-palms: Ponytail palm, cardboard palm, traveler’s palm, sago palm, lily palm, Mexican palm, sedge palm, coontie palm and palm grass which, by the way, is neither a palm nor grass.
And speaking of grass, here are a few plants commonly misrepresented as grasses: Mondo grass, Aztec grass, bear grass, fiber-optic grass and sweet flag grass…..
We’ll tackle cactuses next and point out that pencil trees and many other Euphorbias are frequently tagged as cactus, while chain-store labels often proclaim a vast range of non-cactus succulents to be cactuses.
True enough. But on the other hand, the word cactus does not only refer to plants in the cactus family (cactaceae) but also to:
- Any of various succulent, spiny, usually leafless plants native mostly to arid regions of the New World, having variously colored, often showy flowers with numerous stamens and petals.
- Any of several similar plants.
So now you know that nobody knows nothing, anyway, so call them what you will. Only a pedant would dare to correct you. Why do you ask?