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Latin Words Frequently Used in Species Names

Here are some Latin words frequently used in species’ names. Once you understand what the terms mean, it will be easier to remember the name. For example, if you know rugosa means "wrinkled", you’ll have no trouble distinguishing rugosa roses, with their wrinkled leaves, from other roses. Remember that Latin words often end in -is, -us, -a, or -um, so pay most attention to the root of the word, for example rugos-.

These terms describe plant parts or characteristics:

aestiv- of summer (ex. flowering in summer)
having winged parts
alba or albus white
alternifolius with leaves arranged alternately
amabilis lovely (ex. beautybush = Kolkwitzia amabilis)
angustifolius narrow-leaved
annuus annual
argent- silvery
aureo- golden or yellow
biennis biennial
caeruleus blue
candidus glossy, bright white
-arpus refers to the fruit of a plant
chrys- golden
coccineus scarlet red
compactus growing smaller than average for the genus
cordatus heart-shaped
dioicus having male and female flowers on separate plants
divaricatus straggly, sprawling
erectus upright
erythro- red
filamentosus having filaments or threads
floribundus, floridus having showy and/or abundant flowers
-flora refers to the flowers of a plant
-folius refers to the leaves of a plant
fragrans fragrant or sweet-smelling
frutescens, fruticans, or fruticosus shrubby or bushy
glaber, glabra smooth or hairless
glaucus covered with a waxy coating or "bloom"
gracilis graceful or slendergrandi- large
hirtus, hirta, hirsutus covered with stiff, bristly hairs
humilis low-growing or dwarf
lact- milky--can describe color or sap
latifolius with broad leaves
leuc- white
lucens, lucidus bright, shining
lute- yellow
macro- very large
maculatus spotted
micro- very small
mollis soft or covered with soft hairs
montanus native to mountain habitats
nigr- black or very dark
niv- refers to snow or snow-white
odor- fragrant
officinalis refers to plants with medicinal properties
opacus dark or dull
pallidus pale
palmatus having palmate (hand-like) leaves
palustris native to swamps and marshes
patens, patulus spreading
pend- drooping
perennis perennial
-phyllus refers to the leaves of a plant
platy- broad
plicatus pleated
plum- feathery or fringed
pulch- pretty
pumilus small or dwarf
punctatus spotted
pungens sharp-pointed
purpureus purple
repens, reptans creeping
rhiz- refers to the roots of a plant
robustus stout or strong
roseus pink
rotund- rounded
rubr- red
rugosus wrinkled
sanguin- blood-colored
sativus cultivated (e.g. food crops or herbs)
sempervirens evergreen
speciosus, spectabilis showy
stolonifera spreading by stolons
strictus narrow, upright
sylv- native to woodlands
tenui- slender or thin
tomentosus densely covered with wooly hairs
tuberosus producing tubers
veris, vernalis flowering in early spring
verticillatus with leaves or flowers arranged in whorls
villosus covered with soft hairs
-virens, virid- green

viscosus sticky
vulgaris common
xanth- yellow

These terms usually indicate a plant’s native region:

boralis  northern
canadensis  Canada
chinensis  China
indicus  India
japonicus  Japan
koreanus  Korea
nipponicus Japan
occidentalis  native to western hemisphere
orientalis  native to the Far East
persicus  Persia (Iran)
sinensis  China


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