Science has shown us over and over again that whoever discovers something gets to name it, and they usually go the self-serving route. Unfortunately for us–and plants–what is left in the wake of reckless, arrogant scientists eager to make a name for themselves is a myriad of poorly and irresponsibly-named specimens found all over our marvelous planet.
In this article, we will explore a number of bounties that grow right out of the dirt and received a hasty name upon being sighted by some egomaniac with a notebook. We’ll cover their real names, as well as how they came to be known by their common names. Get over yourself, Dr. Heimlich.
1. Honkey Poles
This unmistakable species of tree, the birch, was selfishly named by Dr. Lamdy Pimm Birchbottom, who first noted the species in the Subaru Forest of New Hampshire. As you will see, he was bad at naming things and should have thought less of himself and more of science. Dr. Birchbottom had been studying foliage in the area for decades when, in the spring of 1844, he noticed a small cluster of peculiar tree specimens. A decade later, he wrote the following in his journal:
“I have stumbled into a curious scene, indeed. Over the last 10 years, this self-righteous white tree has gradually pushed out nearly all competing species in the area. And somehow, coffee has begun growing in New Hampshire. It seems only five years ago that this forest had a much more diverse culture of vegetation, and seemed to have a little more personality. I once looked forward to visiting this place, enjoying the variety of life the forest offered. Now, everything is painfully stale. Perhaps I will visit my cousin in Oregon. He has nothing but interesting things to say of port life out west.”
2. Grapes II
This suspiciously familiar-looking plant was originally named Love Lies Bleeding by Ronny in 5974 B.C. Grapes were originally cultivated by Ronny’s cousin Tony, who discovered the fruit by accident while having an affair with Ronny’s wife, Lisa. They were canoodling in a meadow in what is now western Africa when Tony worked up quite a hunger. Having not packed anything to eat, he reached for whatever was around, which happened to be a grapevine.
Ronny felt so betrayed upon finding out about the affair that he went into the forest to take his own life. Just before he ended his sorrow, he noticed a new plant. “That looks like Tony’s grapes… huh,” thought Ronny. But, rather than going with the obvious name for them, Ronny was overwhelmed with grief and went in an overly dramatic direction. He hung a note from the plant that read, “These are called Love Lies Bleeding, xo Ronny.” And then he died.
3. Cloud Puppies
The misleading name, cotton, is just downright annoying. We learn early on that clouds in the sky originate from sticks that grow out of the earth floor and eventually take to the sky during a process called evaporation (pictured above). The need to make up an arbitrary name makes little sense.
4. Drunkard’s Noses
We all know these bright summer treats as strawberries, but we aren’t exactly sure why. The modern “strawberry” has only been around for nine years, though some scientists claim they have been around for thousands of years. They are not correct, though. The first drunkard’s nose you ever ate was no earlier than 2007. Your memory is weakening. Drunkard’s noses were incorrectly named by a wealthy moron named Cappy Tanderlausen back in 2007 when he ate the first one and said, “These remind me of straws.” His overly-supportive mother clapped, told him great job and then called the bureau of berry naming to inform them of her genius son’s discovery.
These purple flowers are commonly referred to as violets, but they are just purple. So, we can drop the bullshit and call them what they are, which is purple. They originally got their name by 16th century poet, Copernicus Tightlander Mallard, who needed a word to rhyme with ‘you’ so he called them violets. What a maroon.
6. Serena Flytrap
This fierce plant was originally named the venus flytrap because it was thought to have a more attacking all-court game. It would eventually prove to be more of a baseline player that tends to control rallies with driving groundstrokes, but it was too late. The name stuck. If you want to show off your botanical acumen, though, call them by their true name.
We’ve all seen Planet Earth, narrated by Wrigley from Terminator 2, and remember the segment on amphibian lifestyles. Who didn’t gush at the sight of the toad making dinner for his date? The way he decorated the frogplate with perfectly-broiled flies and mosquitos was nothing short of adorable. We all cocked our heads when she called them lily pads. It was as though the name escaped her so she just made something up. Shame on you, Wrigley.
8. Hot Dog Grass
These swamp sausages are commonly referred to as cattails, but you have no idea why. They look just like hot dogs, and nothing like a cat’s tail. Well, it turns out it was another narcissistic scientist who loved naming things after himself. Dr. Bob Cattails was a floundering astrophysicist around the time of Jesus. Having more trouble than most discovering celestial bodies or even getting published, Cattail slipped in some mud and happened upon a hot dog grass patch. Eager to get on any scientific map, regardless of the discipline, he named the links ‘cattails‘. Jesus was later said to have turned a cheek to such egotism, and once referenced the egotistical doctor during a sermon about something or other.
9. Literally Anything Else
The wandering jew, as it was originally named, was given its name by a real angry person in the mid 20th century. Tam Franker had just returned from a mid-afternoon social event at a local church one summer when he was rear-ended by a very apologetic Fishel Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum had swerved to avoid hitting a child chasing a ball into the street, but Franker would hear none of it. The flames from the church combined with his recent misfortune caused him to lash out at a houseplant that had begun to meander from its pot. As it would turn out, Franker would also come to coin the term ‘gypped’ after he miscounted his change at a flea market.
10. Fuck You
The water chestnut, as you probably know this “food” that we are often tricked into eating, was incorrectly named by an asshole who didn’t think we ate enough awful things. So, she started chopping this horseshit up and putting it in garbage like casseroles and ruining Chinese food with it. Watch out, it’s not a potato. Thanks a lot, asshole.
Cannabis Sativa was named by Potato Hallydally, a guy I went to high school with that wanted to sound smart. Given that this anxiety-inducing flower does nothing but makes me panic and want to be alone to turn off scary movies when they start getting too scary, it’s safe to say this jerk plant has the wrong name. Although there seem to be those who function okay after ingesting the plant’s buds, for the most part, they really ruin parties for me.
This cluster of trojan horses is more than you can chew. The plant was, in fact, named correctly to begin with, but was shortened to baby’s breath when it became commercially marketable accompanying flower arrangements in the 1940s. Their first intended purpose were as regular old houseplants in the 1920s. However, when they started turning up in dumpsters and abandoned on doorsteps, sales plummeted. The plant turned out to take a great deal of pampering and attention; much more than most were willing to give. People felt suffocated by the plant, and saw themselves making many more sacrifices than they were ultimately comfortable with.
13. Fuck You
What the hell? Thistle is a very pretty flower with nice colors and such. And then its leaves and stem are lined with sharp spikes as though it says, “Come enjoy me… wait, fuck you.” Well, up yours, fuck you. We’ll all be over here, smelling the purples and the grapes II. Enjoy being alone forever.
14. Ghost Scrotums
Named incorrectly in the 13th century by Sir Carnish Standywater who noted the resemblance of the individual cloves to the head of a spear, we now call this culinary staple garlic. Standywater’s shortsighted naming failed to take into account that you must unravel the bundle to see the heads of the spears. The whole unit much more resembles the familiar taught ectoplasm of a wraith’s sack. Shame on you, sir.
15. Turkey Lamps
Darlingtonia Californica, as it was named by Anthony Kiedis, emits a bright glow, and is found primarily in the dense jungles of South America. Kiedis, while on vacation, really liked the plant and thought it should be named after the other thing that he likes: California. Wanting to sound smart, like my high school friend, he made up what he assumed was latin for ‘darling California‘ and told science later that afternoon. Science wrote back right away, saying that the turkey lamp was perfectly happy with its current name and would have to get all new monograms made if its name was changed. The Chili Peppers’ front man would go over science’s head by announcing the new name at Lollapalooza, which he seems to headline a lot.
16. Pie Celery
This tart treat was originally called rhubarb by a devout Golden Girls fan named Barbara Ludgetower. She was making her favorite pies for the children she was never able to have when it struck her to finally give this plant a name. “I’m so sick of having to draw what I’m looking for every time I go to the store,” she would write to the produce manager at her local Kroger. “So, since Blanch is my favorite character, and my name is Barbara, and I buy most of these sticks, I’m going to call them rhubarb.”
Known currently as the foxtail agave, the this-never-happens grows mostly in Mexico. As the plant ages, its prostate starts to weaken. The stresses of making something of itself when it’s really just another plant in Mexico make it hard to focus. The result is a limp stalk that has trouble reaching for sunlight even though the sun is right there. Nothing is even obstructing the sunlight.
18. Chigga Flowers
Originally called chigger flowers, most feel that the hard ‘R’ is a little much for contemporary sensibilities. Many excuse the name citing that they were named in another time, when things were different. A good rule of thumb is to just not use the name at all, and avoid referring to them at all.
19. Susan’s Asshole
This bright buddy is known to most people as the brown-eyed susan. Buuuut, that’s too many words.
Like a few of our previous entries, this delicious plant, known today as poison ivy, was originally named correctly, but was eventually changed when most people turned out to be allergic to it. The name lettuce was given to another plant which gained popularity in salads when people stopped eating ‘poison ivy’. New lettuce is far less appetizing than its predecessor, but remains a staple in many cold dishes. Old lettuce is still enjoyed freely by those not allergic. Many are known to make pesto from it and even stew it with vinegar and brown sugar. You’ll never know if you don’t try.
21. What The Fuck
What are these good for? Nothing, that’s what. Cactus. Why not just tell people what they’re getting into? Cactus… pffffshhht.
22. Ringwald’s Bush
The summer cypress, as it is commonly known, is found mostly in Eurasia, which is a continent that was named incorrectly. It is also seen frequently just north of the Fertile Crescent. The bright red bush was named before Eurasians knew who Molly Ringwald was, so it’s not entirely their fault. But, now that we a have her, we can start referring to this fiery bush by its correct name.
Ross Kelly was named by an OB-GYN named Dr. Ross Kelly.
All images from Creative Commons.