Above, Catclaw Brier at Tandy Hills Natural Area in Fort Worth. Below, a Hairy Grama. Photos by Don Young.

July 2, 2019

Hairy GramaIn my research as codirector of the Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area in Fort Worth, I often find myself looking up names of plants, both Latin and common names. Latin is, of course, essential to ID accuracy but, common names are way more fun. 

Here's an example: If you want to get the attention of a group of 4th graders on a field trip to Tandy Hills you can ask, "Hey, who wants to see a Bouteloua hirsuta?" Or, you can ask, "Hey who wants to see a Hairy Grama?" See what I mean? Juvenile, I know but, it gets their attention every time. "A hairy WHAT??? (After that, we can get them to change the world!)

Recently I started paying closer attention to a pattern of, plants named after animals. I've trained myself to look for connections in words. After a few hours of iNaturalist research I discovered that, at Tandy Hills, there are least 47 of them. That got me wondering how that came about. It seems obvious to me that these names were adopted long ago when people and animals were in closer proximity, especially livestock and wild animals. I imagine that if these plants were being named today their names may be quite different. Either way, I'll bet that some of these common names have interesting stories to tell.

Anyway, after scrutinizing all 460 species of plants listed on iNat (as of June 28), I began to see other patterns. It became a minor obsession. Here's the results of my obsession:

Grooved nipple cactusThe earthy Grooved Nipple Cactus.

Beard tongueBODY PARTS

Great Plains Ladies Tresses Orchid, Flathead Rabbit Tobacco, Skullcap, Roundhead Prairie Clover, Palmleaf Winecup, Heartleaf Peppervine, Beard-tongue, Adder's Tongue, Blackeyed Susan, Blue-eyed Grass, Eve's Necklace, Grooved Nipple Cactus, Gumweed, Heart Leaf Peppervine, Littletooth Sedge, Hairy Grama

The venerable Beard Tongue.


Maximillian Sunflower, Sundrops, Suncups, Skydrop Aster, Fringed Blue Star, Compass Plant, Texas Yellow Star, Snow-on-the-Praire, Green Comet Milkweed, Sliverleaf Nightshade, Evening Rainlily, Evening Primrose, Heavenly Bamboo, Prairie Celestial, Shaggy Dwarf Morning-glory

Texas Bluebell is flanked by Yellow Dogweed.


Indian Grass, Indian Paintbrush, Indian Blanket, Indian Plantain, Indian Breadroot, Chickasaw Plum


Arkansas Yucca, California Brome, Carolina Buckthorn, Dakota Mock Vervain, Illinois Bundleflower, Missouri Primrose, Pennsylvania Pellitory, Texas e.t al., Virginia Pepperweed


And finally, here's nearly 50 prairie plant names derived from animals that stir the imagination.

Stork's billA stand of Stork's Bill's features beak-like stalks.

Adder's Tongue (Ophioglossum engelmannii), Antelope Horns Milkweed (Asclepias asperula), Bird's-eye Speedwell (Veronica persica), Buffalo-Bur (Solanum rostratum), Buffalo Grass (Bouteloua dactyloides), Carolina Snailseed (Cocculus carolinus), Catchfly Prairie Gentian (Eustoma exaltatum), Catclaw Brier (Mimosa nuttallii), Common Sow Thistle (Sonchus oleraceus), Cowpen Daisy  (Verbesina encelloides), Crane's-bill  (Geranium carolinianum), Crowpoison (Nothoscordum bivalve), Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron strigosus), Dog's-Tooth Violet (Erythronium albidum), Dogweed (Dysodiopsis tagetoides), False Dandelion (Pyrropappus pauciflorus), False Turkey-Tail  (Stereum ostrea), False Foxglove (Agalinis densiflora), Frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora), Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule), Horse Apple (Maclura pomifera)

PonysfootPonysfoot perhaps resembles small hoofprints.

Horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis), Horsemint (Monarda citriodora), Horseweed (Erigeron canadensis), Jointed Goat Grass (Aegilops cylindrica), Lady Bird's Centaury(Zeltnera texensis), Lambs-Quarters (Chenopodium album), Lemon Beebalm (Monarda citriodora), Missouri Foxtail Cactus (Escobaria missouriensis), Mustang Grape (Vitis mustangensis), Ponysfoot (Dichondra carolinensis), Possumhaw (Ilex decidua), Prairie Larkspur (Delphinium carolinianum)

Rabbit TobaccoFlathead Rabbit Tobacco.

Rabbit Tobacco (Diaperia prolifera), Redroot Pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus), Roughleaf Dogwood (Cornus drummondii), Scarlet Spiderling  (Boerhavia coccinea), Silver Wormwood (Artemisia ludoviciana), Snakeherb (Dyschoriste linearis), Sticky Mouse-ear Chickweed (Cerastium glomereatum), Stork's Bill (Erodium texanum), Southern Cattail (Typha domingensis), Texas Snakeweed (Gutierreziaa texana), Trout Lily (Erythronium albidum), Turkey Tangle Frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora), Western Horse Nettle (Solanum dimidiatum), White Fawnlily (Erythronium albidum).

Quite the menagerie, eh? You might say, "So what? It's a just a bunch of useless data."

To that I say, "You want to see a Hairy Grama?"

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