Don’t worry this is not a learned treatise on scientific taxonomies, but rather the common plant names we use which can sometimes be confusing especially for beginners. From creepers that don’t creep, laurels that don’t bay to a snake lily that is not a lily at all there is plenty of scope for muddle. This article by David Beaulieu which I found on the About Landscaping website takes you through ten misleading plant names to save you from making a big mistake.
Just as schoolchildren must build up their vocabulary before they can advance to the more difficult subjects, so budding plant enthusiasts must learn their plant names before they join the big boys and girls in serious discussions on plants. It’s best to focus on the scientific plant names when learning the names of perennials, shrubs, trees, etc.?This, despite the fact that even those long, imposing, studious-looking Latin monikers occasionally convey misleading information to the unwary beginner, as I mention in my article on false cypress.
But, somewhat paradoxically, it’s the common names for plants that can be most confusing for beginners, as my examples below will prove. In some cases, beginners are lulled into a false sense of security by the common names (because these monikers use the language of everyday life) and jump to unwarranted conclusions about them. In other cases, mistaken identity results simply from the fact that two plants have names that are similar-sounding.
The confusion is not purely an academic matter; it can have practical repercussions, affecting decisions beginners make in plant selection. Likewise, when you’re searching for information on the web about plant care, mistaken identity can lead to your providing the right care to the wrong plant.
1.? Virginia Creeper
When beginners at landscaping hear the “creeper” in Virginia creeper, they may well jump to the conclusion that this vine is a ground hugger. Can you blame them? That’s precisely what a creeper is, by definition. But what a mistake it would be to place this vine in a spot suitable only for a tame little ground hugger! Virginia creeper is a robust climber that will seek out the canopies of your trees and invade them mercilessly.
2.? Mountain Laurel
“Laurel” signifies bay laurel for many people. It’s common knowledge that bay leaves are used in cooking. Do not — I repeat, do not — buy a mountain laurel shrub with the idea that you are going to harvest the leaves for cooking. Mountain laurel is a poisonous plant! Do you see why knowing your plant names matters?
3.? Calla Lily vs. Canna Lily
People commonly misspeak and mention one of these two when they mean the other. To confuse beginners further, neither of these popular plants is a true lily. True lilies have Lilium in their botanical names (specifically, that’s the genus name).
Calla lily (picture) belongs to the genus, Zantedeschia.?That puts it in the arum family and makes it a relative of?jack-in-the-pulpit. It is native to southern Africa. Despite having a similar-sounding plant name, it is a very different plant from canna lily.
“Canna” serves as both the genus name and a common name. Canna lily is a distant relative of bird of paradise. It is native to tropical and sub-tropical parts of the Western Hemisphere. Some cannas have colorful leaves as well as beautiful flowers.
Both plants grow from bulbs, and neither is hardy in the North. Read my article to learn?how to store canna bulbs for winter.
See more at About Landscaping