Plants' names are something more than just a combination of letters. Often it's a reference to myths and legends. People loved to dedicate plants to gods in ancient times and often named them after deities or other mythological creatures. So we selected tales behind the names of some plants.
Acanthus or bear's breech
According to Greek myth, Acantha was a beautiful nymph who didn't reciprocate Apollo's feelings to her. Even more, she was pretty feisty. She scratched god's face when he was chasing her. Well, fair enough. Apollo didn't like it and did what gods usually do when they're not satisfied: he turned her into a flower. So after this incident, a pretty nymph became a capricious flower with unusual petals.
Syringa or lilac
Here's another story of unwanted attention from gods. Syringa was a beautiful nymph and companion of Artemis, goddess of hunting and chastity. She was noticed by Pan, god of the wild. To cut a long story short, Pan was clingy, and Syringa was not fond of his attention. So she asked naiads for help. And if you suddenly remembered a line from Taylor Swift's song 'I think I've seen this film before and I didn't like the ending' – you are close! The outcome was quite as expected; they turned her into a flower.
This aquatic plant is sometimes called holly-leaved naiad, a spiny water nymph or naiad. And if you are familiar with ancient Greek mythology, you know what it means. The name of plants originates from the word 'naiad,' and naiads were nymphs. They are associated with water because they live next to aquatic environments, such as lakes or rivers. Naiads were honored as patronesses of forces of nature who were favorable to people and animals. And they were also known for their prophetic and healing powers.
Ambrosia artemisiifolia or annual ragweed
Word 'ambrosia' in Greek stands for 'something that gives immortality. And in Greek mythology, it's a food only for gods that grants immortality and gives eternal youth and beauty. For example, Zeus rubbed it into his hair. Sometimes mortals were lucky to taste it. In one of the myths, Tantalus tried to steal the sacred substance, and this became one of his crimes. Ironically, in reality, this plant and the whole genus won't give you immortality but rather an allergy.
The word 'iris' means' ‘rainbow' in Greek. So there's no surprise that this flower is associated with Iris, the goddess, the messenger of gods, and the embodiment of the rainbow. The goddess and flower are somehow similar; they are both flamboyant. Iris was often depicted wearing something bright and colorful: she's the goddess of a rainbow, after all. And you can find irises in almost every color of a rainbow.
This is a genus of ferns that grows in woods and next to swamps. In one legend, these plants were named after Osmunder, Anglo-Saxon god of thunder, identical to Thor, a germanic deity. In another, Osmund was the waterman of Loch Tyre. Together with his wife and daughter, Osmund was looking for refuge during the Danish invasion. There's even an ancient variant of the name of this plant – Osmund the Waterman.
This genus of orchids is dedicated to Serapis, the Greco-Egyptian god of the sun. At first, he was known as a god of the underworld, but Greeks reinterpreted him. Sometimes he was depicted with Cerberus, a three-headed dog associated with Hades. So he possessed attributes of different gods like Zeus, Helios, Eros, Demeter, and already mentioned Hades.
Maybe, pagan gods and mythological creatures have lost their popularity since the ancient times. Still, the memory of them is saved in the names of many plants. If you are interested in myths and legends about plants, you can check our other articles on this topic.