CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Latin names are important to gardening. Many plants have similar common names, and checking the Latin name can save you from making a serious gardening mistake.
Here's an example: I received an email from a reputable garden purveyor, Heronswood Nursery. I've always respected their plant suggestions, and the commentary on their website is always interesting.
Here's what the email said:
"Deer Proof Your Shade Garden! Create a long-lasting garden with deer-resistant perennials. These selections lend vibrant color to gardens in dappled shade."
The plant they pictured was lovely to look at, and I didn't recognize the Latin name, "Lysimachia Clethroides 'Heronswood Gold.'" So, I looked it up, and much to my dismay, its gooseneck loosestrife!
Clicking through to the website, I read the description.
"Pure enchantment. Upright clumps carry foliage imparting a glowing gold-on-green radiance. Tapered 4-inch to 8-inch gooseneck spikes are dense with tiny saucer-shaped white blossoms from July to September. A four-inch pot is $12.95 and it's listed for zones three to eight."
Well, I was appalled when I read that they are selling loosestrife -- it's a terrible invasive. So I did a bit of research.
Lythrum salicaria L. (Lythraceae) is the purple loosestrife that is invading the wetlands of our country. Totally different plant than the one on the Heronswood website.
However, looking at many gardening websites, blogs and boards online, there are a lot of folks who don't like the Heronswood version of loosestrife either.
The University of Arkansas Department of Agriculture says:
"The Website-based public opinion poll shows a divided gardening electorate. About one-third have a negative view of gooseneck loosestrife, one-third are positive and one-third hasn't made up its mind. Many in the neutral category have grown it for only three to four years so their opinion may become more negative over time.