Anyone familiar with plants will be aware of the magnificent and whimsical variety of plant names. Whether they are domestic or wild, there is always at least one interesting name out of the bunch. Take for instance, the lichen called Old Man’s Beard. It is one of the few beards which you can pull without much harm being done to the owner. Then there is the fungi named Dead-man’s finger and looks like a dark, strange imperfect tower sticking up from the wood upon which it feeds. Some plants are named after their colour, for instance, the cladonia lichen called British Soldiers. Sage green are their stems, but bright red are their tops like the uniform worn by British soldiers. They may be a motley crew of little men, these minute plants, and they may come in vast armies of green and red, but I am afraid they will never march.
Few are aware of a strange fact pertaining to mushrooms. Though they can not walk or run, though they bear no head (but have a cap) and are strangely coloured, they are in fact more closely related to animals then plants. Say hello once and awhile to your nearest plant relative! Oh, and make sure to address them by their names, they are sensitive about that.
When you see a fungi shaped like the bell of a horn standing on end and is dark in hue please salute it as the Trumpet of Death and be very careful what you say to it. Also, if you pass a red-shelf mushroom that resembles uncooked meat upon a tree, greet it as the beefsteak mushroom and it will be content. Don’t try to eat it. The Destroying Angel is not a mushroom to be messed with. Angelically white, it contains a dangerous poison and will not hesitate in telling you so.
Now, let us move to the living things which are easily recognizable as plants. These too, bear fascinating names. Take Devil’s-head-in-a-bush, also known as Flower of an Hour. Is the name inspired by the flowers which are yellow with deep purple in the centres? Perhaps the purple is meant to be the devil, and the yellow, the bush. Mysterious. Another interesting name, or names as in this case, are Creeping Charlie and Creeping Jenny. These two plants are not even related, Creeping Charlie having dark green lobed leaves and tiny violet flowers and Creeping Jenny having smooth bright green-yellow leaves and medium-sized yellow flowers. But both are sprawling plants and very vigorous growers. I wonder what would happen if these two plants collided one day. Who would be victorious after that battle?
Finally, there is the plant called Dutchman’s Breeches. The flowers of this unusual plant look like little pants hung upside on the stalk, as if one of the fairy folk had washed them and hung them out to dry.
And I could continue this article for pages and pages and pages. There is always another amusing name just around the corner, but now it is up to you to look. Have fun plant-hunting!