Dodecatheon clevelandii (Shooting star) Mentzelia laevicaulis (Blazing star) Yucca whipplei (Chaparral yucca) Lupinus excubitus (Interior bush lupine) Lilium humboldtii (Humboldt lily)  
California Plant Names:

Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations

By Michael L. Charters


These word meanings and name derivations of California plants have been taken from a variety of sources which are listed on a separate page.  I am not an expert in Latin or Greek, and I make no firm guarantees as to the accuracy or legitimacy of these definitions.  Further, I take no original credit for the work represented here, and claim merely to have compiled information from a variety of sources and presented it in one location.  One thing I have done which I have not seen elsewhere is to include the names of particular plants so that the reader may investigate some of these name meanings with reference to the characteristics of a few of those species that possess them.  In addition to those other sources I have relied on, I wish to acknowledge the work of Dr. Umberto Quattrocchi of Sicily, whose massive World Dictionary of Plant Names, published in 4 volumes, includes 22,500 genera and over 200,000 species.  It was only recently that I became aware of this work, and I have been priviledged through the internet to have made his acquaintance.  I expect I will be relying heavily on his scholarship, and I thank him for it.  I particularly want to thank David Hollombe of the Santa Monica chapter California Native Plant Society for his tremendous research and scholarship and for his numerous invaluable and unfailingly generous biographical contributions and corrections. I also express appreciation to Orange County botanist Bob Allen for his help.

A careful peruser of these pages may note different spellings for the same root word.  This is unavoidable whenever a foreign language is translated into English.  In some instances different references give different derivations for the same name, reflecting perhaps a certain amount of guesswork.  Sometimes the generic name alludes to a characteristic of a single species that may have been the first one of its genus to be identified but is not typical of all its related species, and therefore may seem oddly chosen.  Similarly, a specific name may reflect a characteristic that is not typical of all known subspecies or geographical variants.  In many cases, the reader will regretfully be left to guess for him or herself just how these meanings actually relate to the plant in question.  This list should therefore be considered mainly as an interesting source of information which may help to illustrate why some plants have the names they do, and may at least point people in the direction of learning more about the names of plants.  

This website at present contains around 4,000 references.  The links at the bottom of the page will take you to different alphabetical sections of the list, and also to sections on Southern California plant communities and the development of botanical nomenclature, as well as a 750-item glossary.  It will be updated periodically as new information becomes available to me. Depending on what browser you are using, you may or may not be able to access the names of the photographed flowers at the top of each section by moving your cursor over the individual photos.  The identifications are also given at the bottom of each page.  Anyone wishing to see more of my photographs of Southern California flora in a larger format may look at my other websites, Southern California Wildflowers and Fall-Blooming Plants of the East Mojave. You may also click on the highlighted names of species in this list to go to a photograph or photographs of that particular species with accompanying botanical information.  I would greatly appreciate being contacted and corrected with any information contrary or supplemental to that herein noted, or any sources of information on plant names other than those listed on the sources page.  I would also be glad to receive any and all suggestions as to how this site could be improved.  If requested, my consent will gladly be given for any non-commercial use of my photographs.

Please do not confuse this site with Calflora, the superb database of botanical information maintained by the Calflora Database in Albany, California.  My site is not affiliated with that organization, and anyone looking for that site is directed to go to:  

Click here for names beginning with

A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M
N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z


Click on the links below for other pages of the website

Southern California Plant Communities


Botanical Terms  



Mike's Favorite Wildflower Photos

Southern California Wildflowers

Field Trips Log

Trees of Southern California

Fall-Blooming Plants of the East Mojave

Wild Places of Southern California

Wildflowers of Ireland

Wildflowers of South Africa

Voyage to the North Pole

The Primate Nooz


Cowboy Poetry

Hunewill Ranch

Borneo Adventure

About the Photographer

All photographs by Michael L. Charters.  Thanks to Sharon Vassar of Pasadena
for her invaluable assistance in the construction of this site.   I would especially
like to acknowledge the Herbarium and Education staffs at Rancho Santa Ana
Botanic Garden
who, although not directly involved in the creation of this website,
have nevertheless helped me immeasurably in the identification of plant specimens,
introduced me to numerous interesting localities, and contributed greatly to the
furtherance of my botanical knowledge.  Website composed with Dreamweaver 4
software and updated as of 1 August 2006.  Links checked by CyberSpyder.
 Please feel free to contact me by e-mail at: mmlcharters[at]

Photo identifications L-R: Dodecatheon clevelandii (Shooting star), Mentzelia laevicaulis (Blazing star), Yucca whipplei (Chaparral yucca), Lupinus excubitus (Interior bush lupine), Lilium humboldtii (Humboldt lily)
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   © 2003-2005 Michael L. Charters, Sierra Madre, CA.