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What's in a Name? Color Clues

Posted on March 22, 2015 at 8:20 AM

Botanical plant names contain a wealth of information.  The species name (or specific epethet) usually gives us information about the plant.  It may indicate where the plant is from or its growth habit.  For instance the name Cornus alba, the common dogwood tree, tells us that its flowers are white; alba = white.  The following is a list of some common color terms that you will find in the plant world.

ater, atro- = dark, blackish

bicolor = bicolored

concolor = the same color all over; of the same color

discolor = of different colors

floridus = bright

fucatus = painted, colored

fulgens, fulgidus = shining, brightly colored

fuscopictus = dark-colored

fuscotinctus = dark-tinged

fuscus = dark

impolitus = matt

iridescens = iridescent

laetus = bright

lucidus = shining, clear, transparent

margaritaceus = pearly

mutabilis = changing, changeable (e.g. in color)

nitens, nitidus = shining

obscurus = obscure, indistinct, dark

opacus = shady, dark, opaque

pallescens = rather pale, becoming pale

pallidus = pale

pallidulus = rather pale

phaeus = dusky

pictus = (literally) painted; vividly colored

polychromus = many-colored

pullus = dark in color

purus = pure

refulgens = shining

splendens = brilliant

squalidus = dirty

tricolor = three-colored

vernicosus = varnished

versicolor = in various colors

Information adapted from: "Plant Names Explained, Botanical Terms and their Meaning," Gorden, Sue, Editor, Horticulture Publications, Boston, Massachusetts 2005

Categories: About Plant Names