Osteospermum eklonis (African daisy) Malvella leprosa (Alkali mallow) Hulsea algida (Alpine gold hulsea) Medicago sativa (Alfalfa) Angelica tomentosa (Woolly angelica) Bahia dissecta (Ragged-leaf bahia) Lunaria annua (Annual moonwort) Gilia brecciarum ssp. neglecta (Argus gilia) Prunus fremontii (Desert apricot) Aptenia cordifolia (Baby sun rose)


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 published and online 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 many 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 fine scholarship, and for his numerous invaluable and unfailingly generous biographical contributions and corrections. Without his knowledge and help, this would be a far poorer effort. I also express appreciation to Orange County botanist Bob Allen for his help and friendship, and to Tom Chester, Jane Strong and Bob Muns, in whose company I have spent many enjoyable outings, and for whose friendship I am deeply grateful. I especially want to acknowledge the Herbarium and Education staffs at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden who, although not directly involved in the creation of this work, have nevertheless helped me greatly in the identification of plant specimens, introduced me to numerous interesting and productive localities, and contributed greatly to the furtherance of my botanical knowledge and to my enjoyment of native plants. I have been extremely fortunate to have been able to benefit from the knowledge and experience of many professional botanists such as Bruce Baldwin, Jim Andre, Jon Rebman, Steve Junak, Dana York, Fred Roberts, Tim Krantz, Jim Morefield and others, and I thank them. For help with botanical terminology and etymology, particularly with Latin words, I express my appreciation to Mike Simpson and E. Nicholas Genovese at SDSU. I would be remiss in not also mentioning the wonderful online series of biographical essays entitled "Who's In A Name?" by Larry Blakely that are not only highly informative but equally fun to read. The Dave's Garden website with its Botanary section is also worthy of mention, as is the online Dictionary of Botanical Epithets and the Glossary of Roots of Botanical Names. There are other people who have occasionally written with suggestions and corrections, and I am always extremely appreciative for that.

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.  It is not always easy or even possible to say where a name came from, what it means or what it refers to. Many of these names were assigned decades or in some cases centuries ago, and the namers have not always left records as to why particular names were selected. 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.

The reader should be aware that a specific epithet for one genus might have a different derivation or meaning than the same epithet for another genus, just as the names baileyi or bakeri can refer to more than one individual. It is often difficult to discern exactly where these names came from, or what was in the mind of the author who published them. No doubt this may have resulted in mistakes in the derivations or meanings I have given for particular taxa. In many cases the author of the taxonomic name is no longer available to explain what he or she meant by the name or why it was chosen, and sometimes there was never any published explanation even while the author was alive. A source such as Stearn's Dictionary of Plant Names may give a derivation which applies to a taxon in Europe for example, but may not apply to our California taxon. There is no official compilation or other published work which may absolutely be relied upon, and I am only too aware that information given on the internet is not always accurate. For all these reasons the reader must be aware of the limitations of a site such as this, and believe that I have made a good faith effort to present correct information.

I am grateful to Michael Simpson for his suggestion of placing stress marks in each name to assist in its proper pronunction. A phonetic pronunciation guide for the names in my website is presented here, and an essay on principles of botanic name pronunction is given here.

This website at present contains around 5,200 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 WildflowersFall-Blooming Plants of the East Mojave, and Field Trips Photo Gallery. 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:  http://www.calflora.org.  

Click on the links below for other pages of the website

NEW: Flora of the Mt. Wilson Trail

NEW: Field Trip Photo Galleries

The Eponym Dictionary of Southern African Plants

Flora of Southern Africa

Megafauna of Kruger National Park

Voyage to the North Pole

Nomenclatural Puzzles


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

Fall Wildflowers of the Hudson River Valley

Aloes of the Huntington Gardens

What's Blooming at the Los Angeles County Arboretum

Wild Places of Southern California

Butterflies and Moths

Wildflowers of Ireland

The Primate Nooz


Flora of Bermuda


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.  Links checked by CyberSpyder. Please feel free to contact me by e-mail at: mmlcharters[AT]gmail.com.


Previous page photo identifications L-R: Dodecatheon clevelandii (Shooting star), Mentzelia laevicaulis (Giant blazing star), Aster bernardinus (San Bernardino aster), Yucca whipplei (Chaparral yucca), Gilia latiflora ssp. davyi (Davy gilia)
Above photo identifications L-R: Osteospermum eklonis (African daisy), Malvella leprosa (Alkali mallow), Hulsea algida (Alpine gold hulsea), Medicago sativa (Alfalfa), Angelica tomentosa (Woolly angelica), Bahia dissecta (Ragged-leaf bahia), Lunaria annua (Annual moonwort), Gilia brecciarum ssp. neglecta (Argus gilia), Prunus fremontii (Desert apricot), Aptenia cordifolia (Baby sun rose)
   © 2003-2021 Michael L. Charters, Sierra Madre, CA.