You love plants but…

Plant Photo for Dict-029

you don’t know what their names mean.

We want to help you, AND perhaps you can help us?

Hugh Clarke and Michael Charters have written an Illustrated Dictionary of Southern African Plant Names that takes the mystery out of plant names. It contains nearly 5,000 entries…

“Why do I like this book? Because they have produced an excellent volume full of useful and interesting information that anyone interested in botany will enjoy and find intriguing.”

Eugene Moll, Extraordinary Professor in the Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology at the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town.

Take this flower – “a Watsonia named after William Watson (1715–1787) an English physician and naturalist”. Does this short statement, typical of some books, tell you what you want to know? Why was the plant named after him? Who was he?  What did he achieve?

Plant Photo -1- for Dict-029

The Illustrated Dictionary of Southern African Plant Names provides you with a short biography of Watson’s life in about 150 words.  The book does this for over 900 plant genera named after people.

This next flower is an Aristea. The plant’s name is derived from the Latin word “arista” meaning ‘point’.
Why was it called that
Want to do some detective work? Here’s a clue – look at the plant’s leaves.
Look at this picture.Plant Photo -2- for Dict-029

Answer: the leaves are sharp-pointed.


Thus, the meanings of plant names can provide interesting information about the design of the plant and help you to remember plant names.



The Illustrated Dictionary of Southern African Plant Names has been thoroughly researched and was prompted by the need to revise Prof UPW “Peter” Jackson’s earlier contribution (1990). The current dictionary took six years to compile because the authors gleaned information from all current and secondary sources, and personally contacted numerous local and overseas contributors. In so doing they have uncovered the meanings of some genera previously unknown; in a few cases making corrections where the genus was attributed to the wrong individual of similar name, or where no meaning of the name had a plausible explanation.

The derivation of botanical names is not an exact science and this book is a superb compendium of knowledge.

Carl Linnaeus, ‘the father of botany‘, and many other subsequent plant-naming authorities, did not always record their reasons for their choices of generic names. Thus Hugh and Michael’s research is even more thrilling.

Linnaeus said: “The names of many plants are extremely difficult to discover and therefore we must often be satisfied by conjecture.”

We would like this book to be published since it will be the only comprehensive book of its kind that provides fully-researched meanings of southern African plant botanical names. It will be a resource enjoyed and valued by the entire spectrum of people interested in Nature.

The publication of this book will only be made possible through contributions from donors, sponsors and subscribers – all of whom will be acknowledged in the book.

We, therefore, need to raise funds to get this book published. Our aim is to collect at least R250,000 in order to print 1,000 copies of the book and be able to sell them at a reasonable price (~R250 for a volume of ~400 ~A4 sized pages, with ~400-500 colour illustrations and hopefully some additional landscape photographs showing where the plants can be found. Working on the assumption that pictures are worth 1,000 words).

This type of funding has been done very successfully before for many other essentially educational and reference books. In every case hundreds of individuals have each played a part in enabling books of great long-term value to be published and distributed.

Perhaps you will choose to help us to publish this Illustrated Dictionary of Southern African Plant Names!

This brochure invites you to assist in getting the book published

* Our dream is that there are 10 Donors each willing to donate at least R10,000 or more towards the costs of publication.

* Our dream is that there are 100 Sponsors, each of whom is passionate about the environment and education, and be prepared to each contribute R1,500 to ensure this Illustrated Dictionary of South African Plant Names gets published.

* Our dream is that there may be many Subscribers who would like to show support for this great project by pre-purchasing a book for R500.

What’s in it for you and how will we acknowledge your help?

  1. Each Donor’s, Sponsor’s and Subscriber’s name will be listed in the front of the book (unless that person wishes to be anonymous).
  2. A Donor who gives R10,000 or more will receive a hard-covered copy of the book, with dust-jacket and signed by the authors. And if required their logo will be displayed in the book.
  3. Any Sponsor who gives R1,500 or more will receive a signed, standard copy of the book.
  4. Subscribers will pay R500 and receive a standard copy of the book.

All funds will be held by the Fauna & Flora Publication Trust Fund.
Should insufficient funds be raised to publish this book all monies will be returned. We hope to publish this book by July 2016.

If you wish to be a Donor, Sponsor and/or Subscriber please complete the SPONSORSHIP FORM attached. Ideally no later than the end of December 2015 please.

Finally if you would like any additional information regarding this book please do not hesitate to contact Eugene Moll on

Click here to download this information as a brochure: Dictionary of SA Plants-Brochure

Click here to download a Donor-Sponsor-Subscriber Application Form: Dictionary of SA Plants-Donor-Sponsor-Subscriber-Form


NEWS BRIEF – 029 – Illustrated Dictionary of Southern African Plant Names