Saturday, February 13, 2010

Common Names Make my head Bizzy

Are the Pea and Box families related? On a recent post about Boxwoods I mentioned that boxwood blossoms smell of grape Koolaid. Janie asked if Boxwood might be related to Mountain Laurel, which also smells of grape Koolaid. "Mountain Laurel," I thought? Mountain Laurel grows in the Carolina mountains. I rarely saw any in Atlanta, and never in our Gulf Coast gardens.

Janie knows that if there is a botanical question, I might not rest until I find the answer. I looked up Mountain Laurel or Kalmia latifolia, of the Heath family. I had a hunch that this was not the plant in question. Sure enough, further browsing brought up TEXAS Mountain Laurel or Sophora secundiflora, of the pea family (Fabacea). It's important here to mention that this information came from The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, where you can read the description and see a photo. I've visited the LBJ Ranch and wish to visit the Wildflower Center recently pictured on Pam's blog Here if I ever see Texas again. If you visit there, please post lots of pics.

I do digress. Back to the question of artifical grape fragranced plants and their families, also in the Pea family are Cercis spp. including Texas Redbud and our Eastern Redbud. Wisteria is also in the Fabacea family but it's a stretch to think of it as grape flavored, just grape colored and sweetly fragrant.

 Pansies, Potted Verbena, Boxwood and Camellia.
Garden Junk Phase, 2005 

Boxwood has its own family: Buxus is a genus of about 70 species in the family Buxaceae. Common names include Box (most English-speaking countries) or Boxwood (US).
Not only are there Buxus natives of European origin and Asian origin, Africa has more than a dozen species of Box. Central and South America have another dozen or so.

It is beyond the scope of my comprehension to undertake a discussion of dicots, eudicots and monocots. I shook their family trees and no Koolaid packets fell out.

17 comments:

  1. LOL. Delightful post. Common names can be fascinating, but sooo confusing. I always encourage people to use botanical names for at least the Genus, and not to worry if they can't spell/pronounce them perfectly. The nursery staff will figure out what you mean, even if reference is made to Wigglers (Weigela) PotentialTillers (Potentillas), Cotton Eaters (Cotoneaster) all of these are names I've heard from people and there are far more. But the staff managed to figure out what was meant.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree, naming nature is complicated. Latin names seem to get changed a lot - my cimicifuga is now some sort of actea, but known to me as black cohosh, not such a pretty name. Maybe someday we'll just know them by their DNA profiles!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dear NellJean, What a highly informative and instructive posting. I do so admire the way that you pursue your subject in detail.

    Jodi is so right in saying that we do need to use the correct botanical names, but not in any sense to be superior, but rather to ensure clarity of meaning. That said, at times it is all something of a minefield.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have a Mountain Laurel in our backyard. It is SLOW to grow.
    I have never been to the Wildflower Center but I hope to visit and I will take lots of photos! :) It is a great website for plant info.

    ReplyDelete
  5. My goodness... your plot is still not working. :/

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm always amused at how many searches there are on my blog for "Laura Pedlum Bush" -- don't know her, but I know loropetalum. :-)

    Cameron

    ReplyDelete
  7. Suprized you didn't mention the grape aroma of Kudzu it can be overwhelming as well.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) actually grows pretty well here in Atlanta, though it is not widely planted in gardens(I suspect that's because of its rather large mature size). Just 30 to 40 minutes north of Atlanta, when you first start getting into the foothills of the Appalachians, the roadsides are lined with Mountain laurel. It needs acid soil, which our clay can certainly provide.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for setting me straight on mountain laurel in Atlanta, Hilda. I amended my post to reflect my experience rather than a sweeping statement about its range. The USDA sites show a broader southern range than I expected. The map follows the Appalachian range right on down through where I know there are hills rather than the flatland where I am.

    I was pretty sure that Kalmia wouldn't grow on the alkaline Texas soil on the coast where Janie gardens when I questioned just what kind of mountain laurel they grow.

    Now I'm wondering if we can grow Texas Mountain Laurel, Sophora secundiflora? I wonder if Noelle grows it in Arizona?

    ReplyDelete
  10. You do have a way with words - Most entertaining! I also enjoy a good botanical sleuthing session when I have a few hours to spare - it does seem to take me a long time, but it's always a rewarding experience for me.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have been around a lot of boxwoods, but never noticed a grape smell. To me they smell like plantations, old Virginia and Williamsburg. To my wife they smell of cat pee and B.O. The most grapey smelling plant I know of is from Evergreen Wisteria (Milletia). To me its blooms smell just like Grape Nehi.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'm a huge fan of boxwood and had two growing on the farm where I lived for 20 years or so. I don't recall seeing them bloom and I never thought they smelled like grapes. I'm wondering if it was the variety of box I had. On hot days that box smelled like, pardon my language here, but it smelled like cat pee. Yikes!

    Enjoyed your posts on boxwood very much.

    ReplyDelete
  13. You are very funny Nell Jean! So much is beyond my comprehension as well! Lol!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Then there is Iris Aureo Varigata- Varigated purple kool-aid iris. I love the scent and stripes on it's strappy leaves. Fun post!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Our Texas Mountain Laurel grows everywhere here, even at the water's edge, and that is the salt water of the Gulf of Mexico! It is slow to grow, but will grow easily from seed, and I know of one tree that is planted in good turkey compost, and has grown 8' in 3 years. That is astonishing for a Texas Mountain Laurel.

    I also know a lady who was pushed over the edge by her husband helping her in the garden by 'pruning' her Texas Mountain Laurel. They had been given to her as seedlings 25 years earlier by her son, and had grown to about 5' in height. He husband cut them down by more than half. She just sat down and cried, which is what I would have done, as soon as I did him bodily harm.

    Thank you for the research, Nell.

    I thought viburnum was the only shrub that smelled of cat pee. Oh, wait! Viburnum smells of dog poo. Different fragrances.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hmmm...never mind the botanical names, I'm a bit in the dark here because I don't know what grape koolaid smells like!

    ReplyDelete
  17. This is a cute post. I haven't ever noticed a koolaid smell on flowers so I must be missing something. I'll be looking for these no matter what family they are in for the koolaid smell!

    ReplyDelete

I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.



Google+ Followers