Ever wonder where those names that end in “ii” come from? What do they mean? Some of the answers are easy to find on the internet, others pretty much impossible. However, inquiring minds want to know, and if you have the curiosity and the time, there’s a lot of information “out there”!!! Interestingly, much of this plant exploration took place in the so called “Age of Enlightenment” during the 18th Century. So, here are six well known names to start with.
Drumondii: -Thomas Drummond ca. 1790-1835
Many plants (including Phlox drummondii) were named for Thomas Drummond, Scottish Naturalist. In 1830 he made a trip to America to collect specimens from the western and southern United States. In March, 1833, he arrived at Velasco, Texas to begin his collecting work in that area. He spent twenty-one months working the area between Galveston Island and the Edwards Plateau, especially along the Brazos, Colorado, and Guadalupe rivers. His collections were the first made in Texas that were extensively distributed among the museums and scientific institutions of the world. He collected 750 species of plants and 150 specimens of birds. Drummond had hoped to make a complete botanical survey of Texas, but he died in Havana, Cuba, in 1835, while making a collecting tour of that island.
Wrightii: -Charles Wright 1811-1885
Charles Wright, American-born world-wide botanical collector collected extensively in Texas (1837-1852), Cuba, and his native Connecticut. Plants named for him include Datura wrightii, the genus Carlow wrightii (wrightworts) and Geissorhiza wrightii (Baker). George Engelmann named a small cactus after him, Wright’s fishhook (Sclerocactus uncinatus var. wrightii.) He is also commemorated in the name of the grey flycatcher (Empidonax wrightii ) found near El Paso. Tropidophis wrightii (Wright’s dwarf boa) was also named after him
Anthonyanus: -Dr Harold Anthony (Can’t find image of Dr. Anthony!)
Rick Rack Cactus, Devils Backbone Cactus, Fishbone Cactus – is named for Dr. Harold E. Anthony, who first flowered this species in June 1950. The former generic name Cryptocereus (literally, “hidden cereus” recalls the fact that the species remained long unknown in a region that had been thoroughly investigated. Mr. Thomas McDougall found this species in 1946. He thought he had found a close relative of Epiphyllum anguliger. When it flowered in the greenhouses of Dr. Harold E. Anthony in Jersey in 1950 it was obvious that this was a great novelty. The species is rarely collected and most plants in cultivation descend from this first collection.
Greggii: -Josiah Gregg 1806-1850
Josiah Gregg was a merchant, explorer, naturalist, and author of Commerce of the Prairies about the American Southwest and Northern Mexico regions. He collected many previously undescribed plants on his merchant trips and during the Mexican-American War after which he went to California. He reportedly died of a fall from his mount due to starvation near Clear Lake, California, on 25 February 1850 after a cross-country expedition which fixed the location of Humboldt Bay.
Fortunei: -Robert Fortune 1812-1880
Born in Scotland, he took a 2-year trip to China about 1845 and wrote a travelogue which captures the imagination of Victorian Society; he was approached by the Dutch East India Company to return to China on a “secret” mission. He came back with more plants, and more importantly …………. TEA!!
Four of the best-known plants that were named for him are:
Euonymous fortunei – Winter Creeper
Trachycarpus fortunei – Windmill Palm
Osmanthus fortunei – Tea Olive
Thunbergii: -Carl Peter Thunberg 1743-1828
Carl Peter Thunberg, also known as Karl Peter von Thunberg, Carl Pehr Thunberg, or Carl Pet Thunberg, was a Swedish naturalist and an apostle of Carl Linnaeus. He has been called “the father of South African botany”, “Pioneer of Occidental Medicine in Japan” and the”Japanese Linnaeus.”
At 18 Thunberg entered Uppsala University i Sweden where he was taught by the famous Carl Linnaeus. He was skilled in botany and medicine, and joined the Dutch East India Co. as a surgeon in order to travel to South Africa. He is credited with naming some 254 species of plants and animals, including:
Allium thunbergii, Amarantus thunbergii, Berberis thunbergii Geranium thunbergii, Pinus thunbergii, and Spirea thunbergii!!