You know that big, beautiful ponytail palm in your yard? It’s not one — a palm, that is.
Turns out a lot of plants aren’t what we call them. While it might not be vital to know the full scientific name of what you grow, misidentification could lead to using the wrong fertilizer, or planting something in the wrong location. If a disease or harmful pest attacking one type of plant versus another comes to town, knowing if you have the vulnerable plants can make all the difference. Here are some common plant misnomers.
A pandanus once grew in my backyard. I unfortunately had to remove it, since it was in a very inconvenient location considering its painfully spikey leaves. How its seed germinated there will remain a mystery; I don’t live anywhere near water. Its immature form, close to the ground, resembled a bromeliad sans center tank.
Leaves of this plant receiving less light appear blue; as they mature or are exposed to brighter light, the blue fades and green dominates, but it still looks almost metallic. I’m going to leave the taxonomy to the experts, and enjoy this botanical beauty for its primitive look and iridescent foliage.
Look for them at the bases of trees next time you are on a hike.
The flag of Hong Kong features the flower of Bauhinia blakeana, which incidentally is believed to be a cross between Bauhinia purpurea and Bauhinia variegata. It’s a common landscaping tree in South Florida.
Spanish moss will not harm its host tree; in fact many creatures depend on it. Zebra longwing butterflies sometimes roost in it, birds can use it to line nests, and it can offer shelter to snakes, frogs, bats and countless insects and arachnids, including a spider that strongly prefers it. Humans have used it for stuffing and insulation.
Kenneth Setzer is writer and editor at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden