A flower with a very obscene name

A flower with a very obscene name

There are several plants in nature that have obscene names. Today I want to tell you about a one flower whose name is so obscene that there have been several disputes in scientific circles over it, demanding that it be renamed.

Indeed, this flower is called Clitoris (from the Latin “clitoris”), and this name it get in 1753 (in the period of the middle ages when almost everyone was devout)!

How did it happen?

It was this name, Clitoria, to a group of flowers, numbering about 70 species, that was given by the famous Swedish classifier Carl Linnaeus. After examining the flower, a relative of the bean, he found in it the resemblance of a boatload. The shape of this addition is very similar to such an intimate female organ. And the scientist, without thinking long and gave the plant a name that literally means “clitoris”.

Human anatomy in the 18th century, when Carl Linnaeus lived, was already quite advanced, and all human parts and organs already had well-established Latin names. And Linnaeus himself was a man with a developed sense of humor. He is also credited with other organisms with rather frivolous names. For example, we know that one of the mushrooms Linnaeus called Phallus impudicus (which means phallus immodest). Indeed, what is there to be modest about, it seems…

Of course, many chaste men could not tolerate such obscenity and repeatedly demanded a name change.

The battle for this flower’s name was fought throughout the first half of the 19th century. So in 1807 one of the first about renaming the plant was English botanist James Edward Smith. He practically demanded that it be changed. But the flower had supporters and they defended the name. Fun guys they were, and so was Mr. Linnaeus! The last, and also unsuccessful, attempt to rename it was in 1840. So Clitoria remained “clitoris”.

Clitoria itself is not guilty of anything in its name. It is a beautiful flower with a tropical character that grows to 2 meters in summer and blooms from early July to September. During the season manages to form beans with mature seeds. True, in winter, even mild, it freezes and has to be sown again in spring.

A flower with a very obscene name

The basic colors of the corolla are blue and pink, but breeders have already introduced varieties with white and pink corolla. Clitoria has also developed a number of large and festooned flower petal edges. The main center of clitoria selection is in Hawaii. What is interesting is that almost all over the world, female plant breeders are responsible for its selection. Funny coincidence, isn’t it?

It is also interesting to note that this plant is not called that in all countries. For example, the common name of this flower in Germany is shameful flower (“Schamblume”). It is interesting, why did the Germans choose exactly this name? 🙂


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