Learning about Wildflowers: Common & Scientific Names and Noxious Weeds


To learn more about scientific names and plant families, take a look at the Texas Hill Country Coloring Book.

Why are there common and scientific names?

A common name can be in any language and is usually picked because of what the flower or plant looks like.  A plant can have more than one common name.  For example, Botrychium simplex is known as both Common Grapefern and Least Moonwort.  The same common name can also be used for more than one plant.  For example Calochortus macrocarpus and Calochortus nitidus are both known as Big-Podded Mariposa Lily.  Scientific names are written in Latin and are in italics or are underlined.  No two plants are allowed to have the same scientific name, so it is less confusing when scientists talk to each other about a plant.  These are used by scientists all over the world because the scientific name for a species will always the same Latin name no matter what language you speak. 
 

What is a noxious weed?

Some of the wildflower drawings have been labeled Noxious Weed.  You might wonder what that means.  Although the wildflowers labeled "Noxious Weed" are as pretty as the others, noxious weeds can be dangerous to biodiversity.  Maybe you have heard this term before in school or on television.  Biodiversity is short for "biological diversity."  This means that there are a lot of different kinds of living creatures on the Earth, including plants, bugs, and animals.  You can see biodiversity in the variety of wildflower drawings on these pages, a total of 345!  Even with so many, there are hundreds of wildflowers out there that have not been included on these pages. 

Noxious weeds are also called invasive plants, harmful plants, weedy plants, and exotic pest plants.  What happens is that the noxious weed starts growing in an area and actually takes over!  The noxious weed grows more than the other plants, crowding them out of the space, blocking other plants from getting sunlight, and taking up nutrients that other plants could have used.  The result is that instead of a field with a lot of biodiversity, or many different kinds of wildflowers, there is only one kind of wildflower growing, the noxious weed.  Sometimes the native plant that is crowded out of an area is food for another animal.  This creates a chain reaction in the area - if the native plant is no longer there to feed the animal, then the animal will leave too.  Not all noxious weeds are dangerous everywhere, a wildflower that is invasive in one area or environment might not be invasive in another. 
 

Where do noxious weeds come from and how do they get here?

Noxious weeds come from other places such as different countries or areas.  When something comes from another place, it is called an exotic.  Usually people get them from other places and plant them in their gardens or use them to stop erosion without knowing that they will be harmful.  Others are carried to different places by animals, ships, cars, bugs or even wind and storms.  Noxious weeds have invaded over 100 million acres of land just in the United States!  Keep in mind that not all exotic plants are invasive, or noxious.
 

What can I do to avoid them?

If you're planting new plants or seeds, make sure you find out which plants are invasive for your area or environment.  Or if you find that you have a noxious weed problem, look for information about how to manage or get rid of it.  If you want to learn more about this topic, take a look at the Native Plant Conservation Initiative's Alien Plant Working Group pages