Animal anthropomorphism is alive and well in many of our gardens – in the plants! There is a veritable zoo of plants named after animals. This concept did not escape the beloved classical poet and author Ogden Nash who wrote a book on the subject – “The Animal Garden”, which was published in 1965.
More recently, Susan M. Betz, author of “Neighboring with Nature: Native Herbs for Purpose & Pleasure and Herbal Houseplants”, thought about the subject and came up with a list of plants with animal names – both common and botanical. . In Nash’s book, plants replaced pets for a family of children whose parents suffered from allergies, so animals were banned from their home. Plants as pets are spreading today for a variety of reasons.
Some people talk to their pets and some talk to their plants. There are legions of gardeners who swear such one-way conversations benefit their plants and help their charges thrive and grow. But in all my years of experience with plants, I’ve yet to come across one that has the power to talk or even make noise, despite Audrey’s “little shop of horrors.” (Remember her cries of “Feed me!”)
What better way to get kids involved in the culture than with an animal-themed garden? The National Garden Bureau notes that this approach is a natural way to introduce them to gardening and cultural ecology.
“Each plant has an interesting past; exploring the origins of plant names, personal characteristics and cultural requirements, uses and history makes them seem like good friends and helps us grow as gardeners,” says the NGB. “Many common and botanical plant names have been passed down to us with animal names within them. Lamb’s Ear, Horehound, and Lion’s Ear all resemble the animals for which they were named, and insects contributed to the identity of butterfly weed, lemon balm, and spider lily.
Cultivate an animal garden:
Once you have chosen your pet plants, the next step is to learn the growing conditions.
And that starts with understanding your garden site’s growing conditions, according to the NGB and Betz. Select plants that can be grouped together in the garden according to their cultural and water needs.
Understanding the natural habitat of any plant is the best way to understand how to grow it successfully. Start with the botanical classification or Latin name of a plant which can provide clues to correctly identify it and what its origins are. Most plants fall under the annual, biennial or perennial classification. The type of plant will allow you to predict its performance in the garden. For example, annuals live for one growing season; then they put seeds and die. Biennials, or biennials, produce foliage in their first growing season, go dormant over winter, then flower, set seed, and die in their second growing season. Most perennials live for several seasons.
Animal Plant Container Gardens:
But don’t let the lack of space deter you from creating your own wildlife garden. A group of containers can be planted with dwarf and miniature varieties. Try: ‘Little Lady Birds’ Cosmos, ‘Polar Bear’ Cardinal Vine and Zinnia or ‘Big Duck Gold’ Marigold, which is easy to grow from seed. Take the theme a step further with animal-shaped containers. Imagine catnip in a pot shaped like a cat, or try “Bunny Tails,” an annual herb in a container shaped like a rabbit, or a “kangaroo paw” plant in a kangaroo’s pouch.
And don’t forget to add a few garden and container accents like butterflies or dragonflies on thin stakes, or animal-themed garden statuary. Here is a list of some of the most common plants, trees, and wildflowers with animal names.
Plants with animal names:
Sun loving plants
- Bear breeches, Acanthus
- Bird of Paradise, Strelitzia
- Butterfly grass, Asclepias tuberosa
- Rabbit Tails, Lagurus Ovals
- Cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis
- Catnip, Nepeta
- Cranesbill, Geranium
- Dragon’s Blood, Sedum
- Round bellflower, Campanula roundifolia
- Hens and Chicks, Sempervivum
- Kangaroo Paw, Anigozanthos
- Lamb’s Ear, Stachys lanta
- Leopard’s scourge, Doronicum orientale
- Tradescantia, Tradescantia
- Tortoise head, Chelone glabra
- Zebra grass, Miscanthus sinensis
Shade tolerant plants
- Bee balm, Monarda didyma
- Elephant ears, Colocasia esculent
- Goat’s beard, Aruncus diocius
- Monkey Flower, Mimulus rigens
- Rabbit’s foot fern, Davallia fejeensis
- Tradescantia, Tradescantia
Wildflowers and weeds
- Silenus, Silene armeria
- Cattails, Typha latifolia
- Fleabane, Erigeron
- Field horsetail, Equisetum arvense
- Horsemint, Monarda punctata
- Yellowbeard, Tragopogon pretensis
- Squirrel mug, Hepatica
- Tick seed, Coreopsis lanceolata
- Toadflax, Linaria vulgaris
- Trout lily, Erythronium americanum
- Viper’s bugloss, Erythronium americanum
- Wake Robin, trill
Trees and Shrubs
- Butterfly Bush, Buddleia
- Crabapple, Malus
- Dinosaur Tree, Ginkgo
- Dogwood, Cornus florida
- Fishtail Palm, Caryota
- Pussy Willow, Salix discoloration
Lynette L. Walther is the GardenComm Gold Medal winner for writing, a five-time GardenComm Silver Medal recipient for Achievement, the National Garden Bureau’s Exemplary Journalism Award. She is a member of GardenComm, the professional organization for garden writers. His gardens are in Camden.
Strand On The Air ends the summer with a carnival of laughs