Try to guess at the meaning of the specific name (epithet). Move the cursor over the second term in the parentheses to check your answer. Click here to see photos of trees and read about them.
- Ponderosa Pine — (Pinus ponderosa)
- Limber Pine — (Pinus flexilis)
- Jeffrey Pine — (Pinus jeffreyi)
- Single-leaf Pinyon Pine — (Pinus monophylla)
- Foxtail Pine — (Pinus balfouriana)
- White Fir —(Abies concolor)
- Red Fir —(Abies magnifica)
- Giant Sequoia —(Sequoiadendron giganteum)
- Western Juniper— (Juniperus occidentalis)
- Whitebark Pine — (Pinus albicaulis)
- Lodgepole Pine — (Pinus contorta)
- Valley Oak — (Quercus lobata)
- California Black Oak —(Quercus kelloggii)
- Canyon Live Oak — (Quercus chrysolepis)
- Coast Live Oak —(Quercus agrifolia)
- California Sycamore —(Platanus racemosa)
- White Alder —(Alnus rhombifolia)
- Quaking Aspen — (Populus tremuloides)
- Tanoak — (Lithocarpus densiflorus)
- California Bay Laurel —(Umbellularia californica)
- Bigleaf Maple — (Acer macrophyllum)
- Western Blue Elderberry — (Sambucus mexicana)
- Water Birch — (betula occidentalis)
- Oregon Ash — (fraxinus latifolia)
balfour - named in honor of John Balfour who financed botanical research
concolor - co (two) color (color). The top of the leaf is green, and the bottom is white.
keloggi - named after the botanist, Kellog.
racemosa - flowers in racemes (strings of flowers)
rhombifolia - rhomb (shaped like a rhombus), folia (leaves). Leaves shaped like a rhombus.
mexicana - common in Mexico
densifloris - densi (dense), floris (flowers) - This has a dense clustering of flowers
occidentalis - found in the occident or west. This is the western birch.
lobata - the leaves of this oak tree have large lobes
contorta - the conductive tissue is "contorted and forms a spiral around the triee
albicaulis - alb means white. This tree has white bark.
giganteum - gigantic. The Sequoiadendron giganteum is the largest tree in the world.
Sequoiadendron - Sequoia (named after Sequoia), dendron (tree)
flexilis - limber or flexible - This tree has very flexible branches. Hence the name, "limber pine"
monophyla - mono (single), phyla (leaf) - Only one leaf (needle) per fascicle or group
jefferyii - Named for its discoverer, John Jeffrey, a 19th century Scots botanist who traveled
in Oregon and California and who found the tree in the Shasta Valley of California
Generic names (Genus)
Classical Latin plant names, sometimes transferred by modern botanists to other plants: Quercus (oak), Fagus (beech), Pinus (pine), Acer (maple), Cornus (dogwood), Rosa (rose), Lilium (lily), Malus (apple), Ilex (holly).
Some names are made from one or more Greek words: Liriodendron (tulip poplar), Philodendron (philodendron), Chionanthus (fringe tree, granddaddy greybeard), Helianthus (sunflower).
Names of famous botanists and other people, put into Latin form: Linnaea (twinflower), Cunninghamia (chinese evergreen), Gardenia (gardenia), Woodwardia (chain fern), Torreya (torreya), Sequoia (redwood).
Specific names (Species)
The second word in a species name, the specific epithet, plays one of three grammatical roles: an adjective modifying the genus name, a noun in the genitive case meaning “of x” (where x is the noun that forms the epithet), or a noun “in apposition to,” or placed next to, the generic name.
Adjectives: Quercus alba, “white oak;” Pinus palustris, “swamp pine” (longleaf pine). These adjectives must match the genus name in gender (masculine, feminine, or neuter), number (singular or plural), and case (for example, nominative or genitive).
Genitives: Pinus elliottii, “pine of (Stephen) Elliott” (slash pine); These genitives often commemorate the first collector of a species.
Nouns in apposition: Acer negundo, “Negundo maple” (box elder); Aesculus pavia, “pavia buckeye” (red buckeye); Diospyros kaki, “kaki diospyros” (Japanese persimmon). These nouns do not have to match the genus name in gender. Many of these names in apposition are names for the plant in other languages taken over as specific epithets.
Meanings of Tree Names -University of Virginia.