Common Names

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?

  Cactus and Succulents
  Carnivorous Plants

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September 2023

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