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You say cle-MA-tis, I say CLEM-a-tis.

You might have noticed that at Wit’s End Gardens, we use the botanical name of plants. It’s true that more people know daylilies by the common name instead of Hemerocallis, but many common names vary by region or apply to more than one species. Botanical designations are more precise, at least until the powers that be change them. (Asters are now officially called Symphyotrichum, but Aster is a whole lot easier to say!).

A Painted Lady visits Aster 'Wood's Pink'
A Painted Lady visits Aster 'Wood's Pink'

Using the botanical name is one thing, pronouncing it correctly is yet another. Sometimes I’m afraid we sound a lot like Hermione Granger from Harry Potter: "It’s lev-i-O-sa, not lev-i-o-SAR".

There are many books, web sites, magazines and self-important botanists to tell you exactly how to pronounce a botanical name. Chances are they’ll even disagree! Still, gardeners often feel unsure about pronouncing botanical names, fearing that they might sound silly or uneducated if they say it wrong.

Thankfully there are a number of names that are well known and roll off the tongue easily (and correctly!)

Monarda muh-NAR-duh

Hosta HOSS-tah

Viburnum vye-BUR-num

Salvia SAL-vee-ah

Geranium jer-AY-nee-um

Aster ASS-ter

Baptisia bap-TEE-zsah

Anemone ah-NEM-oh-nee

Trillium TRILL-ee-um

Rudbeckia rud-BEK-ee-ah

Heuchera HEW-ker-ah

Echinacea eh-kih-NAY-shah

Names that tend to trip people up:

Brunnera bruh-NEER-ah

Clematis KLEM-ah-tis

Gaillardia gay-LARD-ee-ah

Juniperus joo-NIP-er-us

Agastache ag-ah-STAK-ee, a-GAH-stak-ee

Aconitum ack-uh-NYE-tum

Achillea ack-ih-LEE-uh

Liatris lee-AH-tris, lie-A-tris

Asclepias a-SKLEE-pee-us

Penstemon PEN-steh-mon

Paeonia pay-OH-nee-ah

Helleborus hel-LEB-or-us

Corydalis kor-ID-ah-liss

Aralia ah-RAY-lee-ah

Fuchsia FEWK-see-ah

If you’re up for some tongue-twisters, check out this list:

Calibrachoa kal-ih-brah-KOE-ah

Cotoneaster kah-TONE-ee-ass-ter

Hakonechloa hak-on-eh-KLO-ah

Nicotiana nih-koe-shee-AY-nah

Schizachyrium skizz-uh-KEER-ee-um

Sisyrinchium siss-ur-INK-ee-um

You can practice pronunciations, learn some of the rules (i = ee, e = eh, ch = k) and count syllables looking for where the accent goes. Or you can chill, and say it as comfortably. In the end whether you say as-KLEH-pee-us or as-KLEE-pee-us, the monarchs love it all the same.

Monarch butterfly stopping by Asclepias incarnata
Monarch butterfly stopping by Asclepias incarnata

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