Hants & IOW Wildlife Trust – Plant Names

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Weird and wonderful plant names

Plants can have many names. An individual plant may be known by a common name (of which there may be several) along with its Latin name (which is unique to each plant). These names are frequently descriptive, and can also be quite simple or just totally bizarre.

Fat Hen © Philip Precey

Fat Hen © Philip Precey

A widespread and common plant with an amusing name is the Fat Hen (Chenopodium album). This plant grows in gardens, arable fields, roadsides, hedgerows and many other habitats. It is so common that it is often considered a weed. The Fat Hen flowers from June to October with spikes of whitish flowers rising from diamond shaped leaves. Before the introduction of spinach, it was often served boiled and buttered alongside meat. These days, it is considered a good food source for birds and insects. Fat Hen also goes by several other obscure names, including Bacon Weed, Dirty Dick, Goose Foot, Lamb’s Quarters (USA) and Pig Weed.

Creeping Jenny © Richard Burkmarr

Creeping Jenny © Richard Burkmarr

Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) is a low growing perennial plant found it wetlands, riverbanks, ponds and wet woodland. Flowering from May to August and most prevalent in Southern England, the Creeping Jenny has a sunshine-yellow, cup-like flower crowning stalks that branch off a main stem. Its name derives from how the plant will ‘creep’ or spread through wet habitats with its spreading mats of long stems. A hardy plant with evergreen leaves and an attractive flower, it is a popular plant for gardeners to grow alongside a pond or water feature.

Moschatel Town Hall Clock © Mike Read

Moschatel Town Hall Clock © Mike Read

One of the strangest plant names is the Moschatel Town Hall Clock (Adoxa moschatellina). Firstly, the ‘moschatel’ part comes from the flower’s musk-like scent. As for the ‘Town Hall Clock’ part, that is in reference to how the flowers face out in four different directions 90 degrees to each other sitting on top of an erect, slender stem. Each stem has five flowers with fifth facing upwards. This plant can be seen flowering between April and May and is widespread through most of the UK. It prefers shaded, moist habitats and is often found in deciduous woodland.


To learn more about local wildlife and to discover more species with unusual names, visit the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust at website https://www.hiwwt.org.uk