December 3, 2020

An herbarium names, describes and explains the singularities of 275 plants

Mimosa, matalobos, sackcloth, foxtail, dragon’s mouth, cat’s claw, scarecrow or drunk are some curious names of plants collected in the “Herbarium of Wild Plants” just released by Larousse, second edition of an original compendium of 2009 which describes and collects the singularities of 275 botanical species.

The authors of this herbarium, Pierre and Délia Vignes, explain that the objective of their work “is not to be able to identify all the plants that we find during a country walk”, since the plants described in the book only belong to a single branch of the Botany, the most evolved of the vegetable kingdom, the phanerogams, that is, the plants with flowers and seeds.

But neither are all the phanerogams because, according to their authors, a compilation of all the phanerogams of Mediterranean and continental Europe “would need at least 15 volumes of the thickness of this book”, which has 568 pages.

Therefore, the book, which collects the most representative seed and flower plants with a presence in Europe, obvious all plants without flowers: algae, lichen, moss, ferns and horsetails, as well as fungi, which do not have chlorophyll.

In total, the authors have treated 135 botanical families from approximately 400 species, all illustrated and reproduced with almost real-size plates, of which 275 have deserved full representation and descriptive text detailing what biological type they belong to, what They have medium size, at what altitude they grow, in what month they bloom, what their habitat is and what they are called in Spanish, Catalan, Basque and Galician.

One of the things that most attracts attention are the popular names of the plants that appear in the book, accompanied, of course, by their scientific name in Latin.

“The meaning of the names may be unknown, uncertain, absurd or trivial at first. In other cases, it is shrewdly descriptive or poetic, and may recall strange mythological tales. More than one species has been described in parallel with different names by botanists. originating in different countries, “the authors clarify.

On the mimosa (Acacia dealbata), the authors explain that the origin of the name is due to a series of errors and an inappropriate use of the term, and that the trees of the genera ‘Mimosa’, ‘Acacia’ and ‘Robinia’ are They have been given common names that have led to great confusion.

Del Matalobos (Aconnitum lycoctonum) -‘tora pyrenees’ in Catalan and ‘ira-belarra’ in Basque- the book explains that the name comes from the fact that the toxic alkaloids contained in the plant were used to poison foxes and wolves.

Foxtail (Alopecurus Myosyroides) owes its name to the cylindrical and tapered shape of the spikes; Jupiter’s Beard (Anthyllis barba-jovis), with a woolly flower, resembling a beard, and Dragon’s Mouth (Antirrhinum Latifolium), a plant that leaves sticky fingers, which Greek botanists have already compared with a nose.

Espantalobos (Colutea arborescens), also known as ‘Sonajas’ because of the noise that its fruits make when bumping in the wind, or Emborrachacabra (Coriaria myrtifolia), because goats ingest their leaves with a toxin that causes them to have symptoms reminiscent of those of drunkenness, are other names of plants that appear in the book and that draw attention to botany fans.


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