The name sounds native, but it's not

For the longest time, I thought Kentucky bluegrass was native to North America, but it’s not. It just does well in Kentucky. Canada thistle sounds like it’s native to Canada, but that’s just where it was creeping into the United States from. There’s other examples I’ve come across that I can’t remember at the moment, and probably lots more…


Yes! You’d be surprised how many people plant Nipponanthemum nipponicum on Long Island, New York, thinking it’s native, because one of its common names is “Montauk Daisy.” A cursory glance of its scientific name, however, would quickly suggest its Japanese provenance!


I was surprised to learn that the Hawaiian Garden Spider is an introduced species to Hawaii… it’s native to Taiwan and Guam.


Cape gooseberry? I’m in Cape Town so it was a shock to learn that it’s a small c for ‘wears a cape’ like Superman.
PS they grow everywhere. I have 2 volunteers coming up in my garden


Ah yes, the misapplied geographic names are always fun. My favorites are the ones that mislead both on origin and on species:

  • Spanish Clover (Acmispon americanus) - Not from spain, and not a clover

  • Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) - Not from Jerusalem and definitely not an artichoke, it’s actually a sunflower from north america

  • Canna indica, commonly known as Indian shot, African arrowroot, purple arrowroot, Sierra Leone arrowroot - Not from India, nor Africa, much less Sierra Leone, and has nothing to do with arrowroot.


It’s not that it sounds native, but tumbleweeds are a staple, iconic, ubiquitous image of the US Southwest and West, but tumbleweeds are originally from Russia, near the Ural mountains.

They haven’t even been in North America that long, only being introduced in the 1870s.


Some common ones I can think of:

Western Honey Bee-Native to Europe
American Cockroach-Native to Africa and Middle east
Common Earthworm-Native to Europe


Not really near Ural though, it’s a southern plant of hardy habitats.


Bermuda grass is actually African.


In an opposite case, we have Cape Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) which is native to North America. It ended up with its name because:
“The species name capensis, meaning “of the cape”, is actually a misnomer, as Nicolaas Meerburgh was under the mistaken impression that it was native to the Cape of Good Hope, in southern Africa.” - Wikipedia
There aren’t any naturalized in Africa.


Kentish plover. Found almost everywhere except kent


Off the top of my head:
Conioselinum chinense and Lilaeopsis chinensis are both from NE America. Gamochaeta pensylvanica is from S America, while Gamochaeta purpurea is native to the NE US. Lathyrus japonicus occurs throughout most of the northern hemisphere, including Japan.


I always thought that in North America they were just similar plants with a similar breeding strategy

Asclepias syriaca? Nope. Not from Syria.


Afghan Pine, apparently

Seeds of the evergreen Afghan Pine came to the United States in the 1960s through diplomacy with Afghanistan, but the tree originates from the Eldar Valley on the border between Azerbaijan and Georgia.


(and taxonomy rules say first is more important than right. Common sense not included?)
Rant over, for now

I’ve met your capensis on an American garden blog.

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Paeonia daurica had to be taurica, but was written with “d”. So it’s not a Crimean, but Daurian now.

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For those wondering, “Nippon” (日本、にっぽん) is a Japanese word for Japan. I say “a” because “Nippon” and “Nihon” are both common words for Japan. (Technically they are the same word, “日本” but pronounced differently)


So, is the mustard London Rocket (Sisymbrium irio) native to the London area of the UK? Seems there are few records there. I read somewhere it’s native to Eurasia. It’s certainly a well-established spring weed in the Southwest U.S., including in my yard.

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American Copper, a butterfly that is actually native to Europe.

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