Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cybistax antisyphilitica

Did I mention I am on Bignoniaceae?  Well I am.  & last Thursday I came across a specimen label that made me laugh out loud:  Cybistax antisyphilitica.  But that is not the funniest part; the funniest part is hand written on the card where any special notes might be recorded some one penciled "flower used to make blue dye".  I have since googled away & have not found any claim of the medicinal properties this name would imply. 

This is hardly the first funny name I  have encountered, it is just that it is usually the common names that are so...I guess the word would be graphic.  There's Finger Rot of course, I have written of her before & given the chance she could make you wish your finger would rot & fall off.   Her real name, Cnidoscolus stimulosus does not exactly jump up & down & say "I will make you pay!" On the other hand, considering so many botanical names have to do with whether or not the leaves are arranged in opposite pairs or are flat or the stem is woody or growing in a clump rather than along a more-or-less straight line, maybe just maybe if a botanist opens with "this plant is a Cnidoscolus in the Euphorbiaceae family & the first thing we noticed was how stimulating it is" maybe the rest of us should take notice. 

I am not saying botanists never get these things wrong, antisyphlitica being a possible example.  I say possible because maybe it was the  key ingredient in some pre-sulfa drug treatment.  Maybe it was even effective.  At a minimum, the name tells us what was on someone's mind when the plant was classified.

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