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The Color Terms of Botanical Latin

This material gives some of the rudiments of Botanical Latin. Before I started the preparation of this material I thought an appropriate title would be Latin for Botanists, but after consulting the definitive work for this material, Botanical Latin by William T. Stearn, I found out that while Botanical Latin is derived from Renaissance Latin it is no longer, strictly speaking, Latin. It is more in the nature of a technical jargon derived from Latin but with a good deal of Greek vocabulary added in and major simplifications imposed.

To see the need for a special system of naming consider the plant commonly known as blue hibiscus. Not only is this plant not genetically related to the regular hibiscus it is not blue and its blossom doesn't look a bit like a hibiscus flower.

Consider also the following conversation I had with a charming three year old neighbor girl named Magdalena. Here is how the conversation went after she saw I had some flowers blooming in my yard.

Magdalena: Did you make these?
Me: No, they grew. They are called daffodils.
Magdalena: But we call them buttercups.
Me: But they are daffodils.
Magdalena: But we call them buttercups.

The problems of having different names for the same thing are troubling but not as much as having more than one thing going by the same name. Consider the episode in which Jimmy Carter, while he was President, announced that he had gone fishing for dolphins. There was public outrage because the public thought he was killing the sea mammals called dolphins and porpoises, but he was fishing for the fish called dolphins, otherwise known as mahi-mahi. Fishing for mahi-mahi was an entirely different matter than threatening porpoises..

So there is a definite purpose served by having species given a definitive Latin name.

Color Terms in Botanical Latin

Whites
Botanical
Latin
Meaning
alabastrinus alabaster white
albescens turning white
albidus whitish
argillaceous white clay
calcareus chalk-white
candidus pure white
cerussatus plaster white
cretaceus chalk-white
dealbatus whitened
eborinus ivory white
eburneus ivory white
ermineous yellow tinged white
gypseeus chalk-white
lacteus milk white
nivalia brilliant pure white
niveus snow-white
virgineus unblemished white

Reds
Botanical
Latin
Meaning
carneus flesh-colored
chermesinus purest red
cinnabarinus scarlet with
slight orange
coccineus scarlet
cupreus brownish red
erythro- purest red
flammeus flame-colored
githagineus greenish red
haematiticus brown-red
igneus flame-colored
incarnatus flesh-colored
kermesinus purest red
lateritius brick-colored
miniaceous red with
orange tint
miniatus vermilion, scarlet
with yellow
phoeniceous pure red,
scarlet, carmine
puniceus purest red
purpureus dull red,
some blue
rhodo- pale pure red
roseus pale pure red
rubellus pure red
ruber pure red
rubescens pure red
rubeus pure red
rubicundus pure red
rubiginosus brown-red
rutilans bright metallic red
rutilus bright metallic red
sanguineus dull red,
brownish black
scarlatinus pure red
xerampelinus dull red
with brown

Blues, Violets, Purples
Botanical
Latin
Meaning
atropurpureus purple
azureus light, pure,
lively sky blue
blatteus royal purple
caeruleus lighter and
duller than indigo
caesiellus blue-grey
caesius lavender
cobalteus pale sky-blue
cyaneus clear bright blue
ianthinus violet
indigoticus deepest blue
lazulinus ultramarine
lilacinus lilac
ostrinus royal purple
turcoisinus turquoise-blue
tyrius royal purple
violaceus violet

Yellows and Oranges
Botanical
Latin
Meaning
alutaceus leather yellow
armeniacus apricot-colored
aurantiacus orange-colored
aurantius orange-colored
auratus golden yelllow
aureus golden yelllow
cerinus waxy yellow
cervinus darker tawny
chryso- golden yelllow
citreus lemon-colored
citrinus lemon-colored
croceus saffron-colored
flavescens pale yellow
flavidus pale yellow
flavus pale yellow
fulvus tawny with
grey and brown
gilvus dull yellow with
grey and red
helvolus greyish yellow
lividus livid clouded with
grey, brown and blue
luteolus pale yellow
lutescens pale yellow
luteus yellow
ochraceus ochre-colored
ochroleucus ochre-colored
stramineus straw-colored
sulphureus sulfur-colored
testaceus brownish yellow
vitellinus egg yolk yellow
xantho- yellow

Greens
Botanical
Latin
Meaning
aeruginosus deep green, some blue
aquamarinus clear sea-green
atrovirens deep green, some black
berylinus emerald green
chlorascens greenish
chloro- clear green
flavovirens yellowish green
glaucescens sea-green, greyish
glaucus sea-green, greyish
melanochlorus very deep green
nigro-virens very deep green
olivaceus olive-green
orobitinus vetch-green
prasinus grass-green
psittaceus parrot-green
smaragdinus emerald green
thalassicus sea-green, greyish
venetus deep sea-green
viridis clear green

Blacks
Botanical
Latin
Meaning
anthracinus coal-black
ater pure black
atramentarius inky
atratus part black
coracinus raven lustrous
black
denigratus blackened
furmus lusterless black
melano pure black
nigellus blackish
niger grey black
nigrescens grey black
nigritus part black
piceus pitch-black
pullus raven lustrous
black

Browns
Botanical
Latin
Meaning
badius chestnut-brown
boeticus Spanish brown
brunneus pure dull brown
cacainus chocolate brown
chocolatinus chocolate brown
cinnamomeus cinnamon
coffeatus coffee-bean brown
ferrugineus rusty brown
fuligineus sooty brown
fuliginosus sooty brown
fuscus greyish brown
glandaceous yellowish red
brown
hepaticus liver-brown
ligneus wood brown
luridus cloudy brown
nicotanus tobacco
brown
phaeo- greyish brown
porphyreus reddish brown
rufescens red brown
rufus red brown
spadiceus bright brown
theobrominus chocolate brown
umbrinus umber brown
ustalus charred wood brown
vaccinus cow brown

Greys
Botanical
Latin
Meaning
ardesiacus slate-grey
canescens white hoary
grey
canus white hoary
grey
cineraceus light
ash-grey
cinereus ash-grey
columbianus dove grey
elephinus elephant grey
fumeus smoky
brown grey
fumosus smoky
brown grey
griseus pearl-grey
incanus white hoary
grey
leucophaeus ash-grey
lixivius darker
pearl grey
molybdius leaden grey
murinus mousy red
grey
oniscus wood-louse
grey
palumbinus dove grey
plumbeus leaden grey
schistaceus slate-grey
spodo- ash-grey
tephro- ash-grey
tylicolor wood-louse
grey

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