Names, and a Forget-me-not?

Living in Bavaria, I naturally buy plants with German name tags. Of course, a botanical name will also often be on the label, but I have become very fond of many of the German common plant names. One particular name I love is “Sun Hat” (Sonnenhut) for cone flowers. Or “Weeping Heart” (Tränendes Herz) instead of Bleeding Heart (Dicentra/Lamprocapnus). I use Wikipedia and other reference sources in both German and English to find out more about them, and in doing so over the years it has become evident again and again that the German Wikipedia site seems – very often – to contain more information. Yet the plants are just as common in both the UK and Germany. Can anyone enlighten me as to why this is so….?

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One example of this is Brunnera macrophylla

Brunnerablue

Brunnera macrophylla is perhaps known better in English as Siberian bugloss, but I feel the German name is so much prettier and more appropriate:

Caucasus Forget-me-not” (Kaukasusvergissmeinnicht)

Here is a white variety, ‘Betty Bowring’. It flowers early spring, lighting up the garden, and then intermittently all summer, depending on how hot it is. In a shadier position it might even flower non-stop, especially if deadheaded frequently.

BrunneraWhite

My blue Brunnera also flowers well in a sunny position in spring, but doesn’t last all summer. The blue variety is better known and perhaps more reminiscent of Forget-me-nots (Myosotis) due to the colour. You can see that the foliage is, however, completely different – large heart-shaped leaves.

Brunnerablue2

Brunnera and Myosotis are in fact both in the Boraginaceae family, which also includes Pulmonaria, Borage and Comfrey.

Do you grow Brunnera? Or are you a fan of Forget-me-nots?

35 thoughts on “Names, and a Forget-me-not?

  1. All very pretty flowers. I especially like blue in the garden. Blue isn’t one of the most common colors for flowers but it blends in so nicely with the other more showy colors. I must admit I lean toward the forget-me-nots…they tend to spread and never let you forget them but I like them anyway.
    Fantastic post Cathy…very uplifting! Thanks! 😀

    • I love blue flowers too, but they seem more common in spring than summer. I used to have lots of forget-me-nots, but one year I weeded them all out by mistake! LOL! (Must sow some more this year!) Have a lovely week Nancy!

  2. I grow Brunnera, the variety I like is Brunnera Macrophylla variegata. Interestingly enough, it is thriving in my northern facing shade garden with all the hostas and moist loving ground covers. The flowers seem to float in the air against a white wraparound porch. I also love blue flowers, I believe they are–second to pure white–the most elegant and rare in the garden. It was delightful that you included the German names of some things. I lived in Zurich for one year and only know enough German (Swiss German!) to recognize the beauty and interest of the complex names. Thank you Cathy!

    • I bet the foliage looks lovely next to Hostas Susan. I have Hostas on my north side of the house, and must try adding some other foliage there one day. Thanks for stopping by, and glad I could remind you of some German!

  3. Forget-me-nots are one of my very favorites. I have been trying to grow them in various flower gardens around my house here in Mexico, with no luck 😦 Maybe it’s just too hot?

    • That’s a shame – yes, as a spring flower they probably don’t like too much heat. Maybe the Brunnera would be a bit more resilient, but I don’t know how it would fare in a different climate.

  4. No public relations executive would ever think up a name like Siberian Bugloss. False Forget Me Not is another common name, and much more appealing. Never heard Caucuses Forget Me Not. That name is probably not used in the USA because many people have either never heard of the Caucuses or think of it as a form of primary election used in Iowa and some other states.

      • Ah, so much depends on where you separate the syllables, and on the coincidence that results from separating in the wrong place. The name of the flower was created from the Greek elements bu- ‘cow’ (think of the word bovine) and gloss- ‘tongue’ (think of the word glossary). Some species of bugloss, or some feature of one, must have reminded people of a cow’s tongue. So the etymologist says: let’s lose the bug loss and reclaim the cow’s tongue.

        • Steve, you are a mine of information! Thank you for the etymology – I still think the German name is prettier though… 😀 (I’ve heard of a Mother-in-law’s Tongue before, but not a Cow’s Tongue!)

  5. Hi Cathy, I find the same thing with Italian common names; they are often name for a saint who’s day is when the flower is likely to be blooming. As an example what in Endland we call the Madona Lilly is know as Saint Antonio’s Lilly here. Christina

    • That’s nice – most of my favourite flowers have pretty names in German. Another example is daffodils – in German “Easter Bells”. But it does work the other way too sometimes – Violas are, in German, “Little Stepmothers”! LOL!

  6. In answer to your question, I’ll add that the Germans have had a reputation for scholarship that goes way back. It doesn’t surprise me to hear you say that Wikipedia articles in German have more information than the counterpart in English. Along those lines, I’ve noticed that an English version will often have more information than its Spanish-language counterpart.

    • I expect there are areas where the reverse is true, but with plants I always look at the German page first. Many of the famous early botanists/plant hunters were of either German, Austrian or Swiss origin, so you’re right – I shouldn’t be surprised that this tradition has continued.

  7. I’m not familiar with brunnera but I love my forget-me-nots that self seed so I think I’ll try and get some brunnera for variety. As they are from the same family Boraginaceae, I suppose they are popular with the bees. I have a wish list for plants so I shall pop it on.

  8. “Sun hat” for Coneflowers! I love that, too. The other flowers I don’t recognize, but you do have me curious about the difference in Wikipedia! entries. I can’t imagine why that would be either!

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