From tulips to chrysanthemums, our series “The Language of Flowers” explores everything from fresh flower care tips to flower symbolism and meaning.
Comedians aren’t the only ones with a wacky sense of humor! Botanists and plant lovers have thought up some pretty funny and unusual plant names over the years. Think Pussytoes, Sneezeweed, and Corn-cockle! While these aren’t the scientific names, they’re memorable because they’re silly and usually descriptive of the plant in some way.
Here are some droll, quirky names of flowers:
Butter-and-Eggs, Common Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris)
This perky yellow and white wildflower is native to Europe and central Asia and was originally grown in the U.S. as a cultivated, perennial garden flower. It escaped and now has naturalized in the U.S. and Canada, and has become invasive in some areas. Butter-and-eggs is seen along roadsides, meadows, and waste places. It has been used medicinally in folk medicine and even as an insecticide.
Swamp Lousewort (Pedicularis lanceolata)
This herbaceous perennial wildflower is unique for many reasons other than just its name. The swamp lousewort is what’s known as a hemiparasite, meaning that in addition to collecting nutrients from the sun through photosynthesis, it also steals resources from nearby plants thanks to underground, connecting roots.
Thimbleweed, Windflower (Anemone virginiana)
Thimbleweed is a little, white-flowered, herbaceous perennial that grows in open woodlands or dry, rocky hillsides in the eastern and central U.S. Its funny name comes from the thimble-shaped seed heads that form after the flowers go by. Its other common name, windflower, comes from the Greek word, anemos, for wind.
Bastard Toadflax (Comandra umbellata)
Careful talking about this one in public! Years ago, Native Americans would eat the seeds of a bastard toadflax (also known by the less comedic name, Comandra umbellata) and use other parts of the plant to treat colds, canker sores, and eye irritation.
Cheeses, Cheeseweed (Malva neglecta)
What sounds like a crazy name for this flower actually makes sense. Its round, flat seedpod looks like a wheel of cheese, a flat pumpkin, or a button. Cheeses have white to light pink or purple flowers, and spread low to the ground. They are found growing in lawns and meadows all over the United States.
Corn-cockle (Agrostemma githago)
Despite what its name might imply, the last thing this plant resembles is corn. This magnificent plant grows nearly three feet tall and sprouts just one beautiful purple flower at its top, making it a popular decorative plant on farms.
Pussytoes (Antennaria sp.)
The cool name, Pussytoes, comes from the fuzzy white to pink flower heads that look like tiny kitten’s paws. This is a group of perennial species that are mostly native to the Northern Hemisphere. They often grow in groups with their basal leaves hugging the ground and their upright stalks reaching one foot high. Pussytoes grow in a variety of well-drained soils, and are a great addition to rock gardens.
Adder’s Tongue Spearwort (Ranunculus ophioglossifolius)
When submerged in water, this aquatic-loving plant’s leaves float to the surface and resemble a water-lily. Though now a beloved water plant, adder’s tongue is relatively young, especially when compared to flowers like roses and daisies. It was first described by Dominique Villars in Histoire des Plantes de Dauphiné, which was published in 1789.
Sneezeweed (Helenium sp.)
This red, yellow, and orange daisy-like flower is a fall-blooming perennial native to North and Central America. Sneezeweed’s crazy flower name comes from its early use as a snuff that would cause sneezing to expel evil spirits! It grows well in damp woodlands and moist areas, and many horticultural varieties have been bred because of its colorful flower and easy growth.
Humped Bladderwort (Utricularia gibba)
This aquatic carnivorous plant can be found almost anywhere water is present, from the United States and Canada to Africa and Asia. Grown primarily in lakes and canals, this flower is about as gruesome as its name implies. To get its nutrients, a humped bladderwort captures small prey in its bladder and digests it over time.
Turtlehead (Chelone lyonii, Chelone glabra)
Turtlehead is perennial wildflower native to Canada and the northeast and central U.S. Its unique name refers to the pink or white, hooded, two-lipped flowers that resemble a turtle’s beak. It grows in wet, boggy areas and along streams, and can be cultivated if there is enough moisture. Turtlehead blooms in the late summer to fall, and has sometimes been used as an unusual cut flower in arrangements.
Mad Dog Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
This wetland-loving species of plant usually grows near marshes, meadows, lakes, and canals. Recently scientists have been studying its extracts, with a hope of one day using it as a mild sleep sedative.
Cuckoo Flower (Cardmine pratensis)
This pale pink or white wildflower is a native of Europe and western Asia and has naturalized in the United States. Cuckoo flower’s cool name comes from its bloom time that coincides with the first call of the cuckoo bird in spring. It is an herbaceous perennial that grows in wet woods, damp meadows, and along stream beds.
False Hellebore (Veratrum viride)
Known by a variety of names, including Indian poke, Indian hellebore, and green false hellebore, this plant is extremely toxic. Just a few false hellebore plants have the power to kill an entire garden or farm, as well as livestock if ingested.
Viper’s Bugloss (Echium vulgare)
This showy, blue-flowered plant was once used as a cure for snake or viper bites, hence the weird name, and bugloss refers to the Greek word for ox tongue from the shape of its leaves. Viper’s bugloss is native to Europe and Western Asia and has naturalized in the United States. It was originally used as a garden flower but has since escaped and become an invasive weed in parts of the U.S. Whether you view viper’s bugloss as a weed or garden plant, it remains a very pretty flower with a crazy name.
Scurfpea (Pediomelum tenuiflorum)
Most often found emerging from desert grasslands and canyons, these pea-like flowers change color depending on their age. When they first bloom, they’re a bluish-purple color. As they get older, they begin to appear red or tan.
Corn-salad, Mâche (Valerianella locusta)
Corn-salad, or Mâche, is a native of Western Europe, Northern Africa, and Western Asia, and has naturalized in North America. True to its unique name, it is used as a salad green, and is often found as a weed growing in cornfields. Corn-salad is an early spring annual that grows wild but can be cultivated for its smooth, green, edible leaves. Several horticultural varieties have been bred for larger leaves and sweeter taste.
Spiny-leaved Sow-thistle (Sonchus asper)
Native to Eurasia, the spiny-leaved sow-thistle enjoys living in highly trafficked areas, like parks and pastures. Even though it’s considered a weed of many crops, it rarely has the chance to invade a farm because livestock find it to be quite tasty. Closely related to wild lettuce, it is possible to eat the young weed as well — though we’d suggest against it!
Monkey Flower (Mimulus ringens)
Monkey flower is a native of North America. Its funny name refers to the lilac-colored flowers that were thought to look like smiling monkey faces. It grows in very wet places such as stream banks, marshy areas, and wet meadows. Monkey flower is a pretty, three-foot tall, herbaceous perennial that blooms from midsummer to fall.
Cow Vetch (Vicia cracca)
At nearly four feet tall, this fast-growing perennial may be a weed, but its lovely purple flowers may make you think twice about grabbing the weed killer. At a single time, as many as 40 small, purple flowers can bloom on one side of its long, green stem.