How did Trees Get Their Names?

The names of many trees, plants, and herbs have interesting origins. Others, of course, have simply come down to us from other languages. Let’s look into some of the more interesting names of plants, trees and herbs.

The pine tree gets its name from the Latin word pines, which means a “point”. The spruce tree should really be called “Prussia Tree”. It was long thought to be a native of Prussia. The name gradually became “spruce”.

The magnolia is named after Pierre Magnol of France, who was a professor of botany. The cypress was first brought from the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean. Willow comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word wileg.


In Madagascar, there is a tree called “the Traveler Tree”. It has large, fan-shaped leaves that catch the rain and passing travelers can quench their thirst at this tree!

Among plants with interesting names there is the Barber Plant which grows in the Orient. The natives rub its leaves on their faces to keep the beard from growing. Mint owes its name to Menthe, a woman in an ancient fable who was transformed into a plant by her rival Prosperina.


Thyme comes from the Latin thymus, which means “to sacrifice”. This plant was burnt by the Romans on their altars. Dandelion comes from the French dent de lion, because the leaves of this plant were supposed to resemble the teeth of a lion. Arrowroot was said to be used by North American Indians for extracting the poison from arrow wounds.     

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