… a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
King’s crown, Fireweed, Pussytoes, and Skyrocket. The Santa Fe area has loads of flowers. And while the flowers themselves are colorful, so are their names. Some names are used to describe where they live: Marsh marigolds, Meadow rue, Mountain parsely. Some are used to describe hue: Golden-aster, Gentian, Butter-and-eggs, or Goldeneye. And some names are used to describe the flower shape: Elephant head, Bellflower, Nodding onion and Monkshood.
Lots of our local plants have had former or current uses and their common names reflect those uses. Wild Bedstraw was dried and used for stuffing mattresses as it stayed “springy” unlike grain straw. Bugbane and fleabane earned their names for warding off unwanted 6-leggers.
Then there are the ones that we are meant to avoid like Death Camus, Baneberry, and Skunk cabbage.
Although common names can cause some grief to biologists (Latin names are less ambiguous), our human penchant for trying to name and describe the world around us has generated some beautiful English names. How impoverished would we be if we lose those connections? Take some time soon to smell the roses, and the daisies, and the other wildflowers!
Karen Denison is a longtime admirer of Santa Fe’s wildflowers, and owner of Outspire Hiking and Snowshoeing guide service. She periodically conducts wildflower walks, hiking in the aspen and GPS classes.