by Linda Leinen

The naming of plants?
It really does matter.
It isn’t correct to think all are the same.
You may think at first I’m indulging in patter,
but I tell you — a plant must have four different names!
First comes the name that tells us its genus —
Gaillardia, Solanum, Ilex or Phlox;
Clematis and Salvia, Silphium, Quercus —
the Latin is easy, not hard as a rock.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
some for the cactus and some for the canes —
Monarda, Justicia, or even Lantana
make lovely and sensible Latinate names.
And then, every plant needs a name more particular,
a name that’s specific and quite dignified —
else how could it keep all its stems perpendicular,
spread out its anthers, or blossom with pride?
For namings of this sort, I ‘ll give you fair dozens:
lyrata, drummondii, frutescens, and more —
crispus, limosa, luteola, texensis —
those names help describe what we’re all looking for.
Of course, there are names by which most people call plants,
like violet, hollyhock, iris, and thyme;
there’s nothing more common than sweet dandelions,
or peaches, or rhubarb for making our wine.
But above and beyond, there’s one name left over,
and that is the Name that you never will guess;
the Name that no researcher ever discovers —
which the plant itself knows, but will not confess.
When you notice a bloom in profound meditation,
its rays sweetly folded, or its leaves well-arrayed,
its mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
of the seed of a thought of a thought of its Name:
its sturdy and windblown,
sunkissed and shadowed,
deep and firm-rooted most singular Name.

Note: Wasn't that delightful?
You can find Linda at her websites:
Lagniappe - I'll let you discover the marvelousness of that name and all of Linda's work there.
You can also find Linda at The Task at Hand, which is native plant-centered and mostly photographic in nature.

Linda was inspired to write this poem after reading T.S. Eliot’s poem delightful “The Naming of Cats.”
When I was researching yesterday's show, which honored Carl Linnaeus’s birthday and his system of categorizing plants by genus and species - or binomial nomenclature, I came across Linda's poem.
If you already know “The Naming of Cats,” you’ll hear its echoes in Linda's marvelous poem.


As featured on
The Daily Gardener podcast:

Words inspired by the garden are the sweetest, most beautiful words of all.
Linda Lienen
Linda Lienen