Tag Archives: plants

Aenigma, enigmas, and the progress of science

Image: an Enigma encoding/decoding machine (Greg Goebel, CC 0 via Wikimedia.org).  Which, I admit, is only tangentially related to this piece, but it’s pretty cool.

I’ve celebrated many a Latin name on Scientist Sees Squirrel, sometimes for something as simple as the way it sounds, but more often for a story it tells.  But this time, I’m celebrating the loss of a Latin name.  Not because I didn’t like the lost name; I did.  But its loss – or, more precisely, its replacement by a new name – has a lot to tell us about the process of naming and the progress of science. Continue reading

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Latin names that amuse my inner 9-year-old: Onopordum acanthium

Image: Scotch thistle, Onopordum acanthium via wikimedia.org, © Net-breuer CC BY-SA 3.0.

I have a paper cut-out Nativity scene that comes out every year around Christmas (it’s a childhood tradition that’s stuck with me despite my lack of religious conviction to give it meaning).  There’s a donkey near the manger, of course, and seeing it reminded me I’ve been meaning to mention the wonderful (?) etyomology of the Scotch thistle’s Latin name.  Scotch thistle is native to Europe and western Asia, although it’s become invasive in many dryish places around the world.  And it has a Latin name with a certain je-ne-sais-quoi.

Quite a while back, I wrote about the black-billed thrush, saddled with the quite unfortunate name Turdus ignobilisIt doesn’t quite mean “the ignoble turd”, but my inner 9-year-old would like it if it did.  But Scotch thistle – ah, my inner 9-year-old can go to town. Continue reading

Three witches in the woods

Photos: witches’ butter © Daniel Neil CC BY 2.0; witch-hazel © Mike Peel CC BY-SA 4.0; witches’ broom © Scot Nelson CC BY 2.0.

Happy Hallowe’en!

Tonight, you’ll no doubt see neighbourhood children traipsing door-to-door in costume, shrieking and laughing along the way.  You’ll see superheroes and scarecrows, pirates and police officers, wizards and witches. Some costumes go in and out of fashion; but there are witches every year.

There are witches in the woods, too. Continue reading