Tip of the Week: What

OK, so we’ve all encountered those crazy plant names that leave us tongue-tied and longing for something short and sweet, like mums or iris. The Latin used in binomial nomenclature—or the language of horticulture—serves a purpose, so that we can speak botanically from Odessa, Texas, to Hokitika, New Zealand. Now, within some of those Latin names, you can learn things about a plant simply by reading its name. Check out these names that indicate the shape.

acerosus, needle-shaped
acetabulosus, cup-shaped or concaved
acicularis, like a pin or needle
aciformis, needle-shaped
acuminatus, tapering to a point
alveolatus, hollowed out, channeled
annularis, ring-shaped
apiculatus, with a short-pointed end
applanatus, flattened
arcuatus, bent or curved like a bow
attenuatus, tapering to a point
bucinatus, like a curved horn
calathinus, cup-shaped; like a basket
calceiformis, calceolatus, shaped like a little shoe or slipper
campanulatus, bell-shaped
canaliculatus, with a channel, like a pipe
cassideus, shaped like a helmet
catilliformis, shaped like a saucer
caudiforms, shaped like a tail
clathratus, like a lattice or trellis
clavatus, claviformis, club-shaped
conicus, cone-shaped
convolutes, rolled up lengthways
cordatus, cordiformis, heart-shaped
corniculatus, with little horns
cornutus, horned
cristatus, crested
cruciatus, cruciformis, cross-shaped
cucullatus, hooded
curvulus, slightly curved
cuspidatus, with a sharp point
cyathiformis, cup-shaped
cylindricus, cylindraceus, cylindrical
deltoides, triangular
depressus, flattened
ellipticus, elliptic
ensatus, ensiforms, sword-shaped
falcatus, curved like a sickle
flabellatus, fan-shaped
flexuosus, zigzag
fornicatus, arched
fungiformis, mushroom-shaped
fusiformis, shaped like a spindle
gibbosus, hunchbacked
lanceolatus, spear-shaped
lunulatus, like a crescent moon
mucronatus, pointed
nidiformis, nest-shaped
nummularius, like a coin
obconicus, like an inverted cone
orbiculatus, disc-shaped
ovalis, oval
ovatus, egg-shaped
peltatus, half-moon shaped
planus, flat
platy-, broad or flat
poculiformis, cup-shaped
prismaticus, prism-shaped
pulvinaris, pulvinatus, like a cushion
pungens, ending in a hard sharp point
pyramidalis, pyramid-shaped
reniformis, kidney-shaped
rhombeus, rhombicus, rhombiformis, diamond-shaped
rotatus, shaped like a wheel
saccatus, like a bag; with sacs
sagittalis, sagittatus, arrow-shaped
sphaerocephalus, with globose heads
spicatus, bearing a spike
stellatus, star-shaped
strepto-, twisted
tabularis, tabuliformis, flat like a board
uncinatus, hooked
undulates, undatus, wavy

Adapted from Horticulture Plant Names Explained: Botanical Terms and Their Meaning. Learn more about this book.

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