Can You Correctly Spell the Names of These Flowers?

By: Jacqueline Samaroo
Image: H. Wade via Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

A rose by any other spelling would smell as sweet!

Attention, all botany buffs and casual flower lovers! These eye-catching and colorful aspects of plant life are not only great to look at, but also serve vital roles in specific ecosystems and nature as a whole. On a plant, the flower is where new life first and foremost starts to blossom! Why? Well, because the flower is where reproduction in flowering plants happens. So, without flowers, a lot of plant species would lose the ability to survive. See, they're more than just pretty and colorful things to look at! 

In this flower quiz, we'll be putting your knowledge of botany to the test to see if you can identify the correct spelling of these forty flowers.

Flowers have been a part of human culture from the dawn of time and so, as a result, we have discovered and studied thousands of them. We have been using flowers for decorative purposes of course; however, did you know that all over the world different flowers have been used as various types of medicine as well? 

So dust off that loose dirt, pull those stray weeds from your mind, and let's jump right into this botanical quiz!

This popular flowering plant is native to tropical and subtropical areas of Eurasia and Oceania. Jasmine are widely cultivated for their sweet and unique fragrance; the buds are actually more fragrant than the flowers themselves, and the fragrance is stronger after sunset. As shrubs, jasmine plants can reach heights of five feet, while as vines they can reach lengths of 30 feet.

Young sunflowers display a very specific circadian rhythm: they face east at dawn, slowly turn to the west as the sun moves, then at night they turn east again. However, it’s been noted that they don’t exactly follow the sun, as sunflowers moved indoors to artificial lighting display roughly the same behavior! In fact, the turning is caused by the stem’s sides elongating at different times of the day.

The name "pansy" comes from the French word “pensée,” which means “thought” or “remembrance,” and these flowers represent the thoughts of lovers. Pansies are one of the oldest cultivated flowers and are edible. They’re sometimes used in salads and desserts. Pansies have a minty flavor and are rich in vitamins A and C.

The common heather (Calluna vulgaris) is perhaps the best known of the Ericaceae family of heathers. The small flowers are usually purple or mauve, but can also be found in white, pink and red – albeit rare in the wild. Did you know that, before the 19th century, heather was very unpopular because it was associated with rural poverty? Now it’s a beloved decorative plant that is grown all around the world!

Orchids are the largest family of flowering plants, with at least 25,000 different species - that’s about 4 times the number of mammal species! Orchids grow on every continent except Antarctica and, though they take years to first bloom, these plants can live up to 100 years! Some species’ flowers last up to six months, while others’ unfortunately only last a few hours.

Also known as narcissus, jonquil and – in England – Lent lilies, daffodils are one of spring’s representative flowers! Daffodil stems, leaves and bulbs contain a toxic alkaloid known as lycorine that helps protect the plant against predators, such as insects. The bulbs can be toxic to other plants as well, so it’s recommended not to keep daffodils in vases with other plants.

With their bright, colorful, bowl-shaped flowers, cosmos are easy to grow and can be grown almost anywhere! These flowers are colorful and most often come in pink, with orange, red and yellow varieties, among others. The Cosmos genus is native to Mexico and its name means “orderly, beautiful, and ornamental” in Greek. As gifts, cosmos typically represent deep feelings of love.

The name “violet” is usually given to smaller flowers in the Viola genus. (The multi-colored, larger varieties are usually referred to as pansies in horticulture.) Violets are very commonly used in cuisine in various ways: the flowers can be used in salads or as poultry stuffing; essence of the flower is used to flavor desserts; and candied violets, as well as violet syrup, are popular in France!

These flowering shrubs have a lot of cultural significance and symbolism, especially in East Asian cultures. Japan, Korea and Hong Kong (as well as many cities in the U.S.) all have festivals dedicated to azaleas, usually their blooming in particular. In China, azalea is referred to as “sixiang shu” – the “thinking of home bush” – and the azalea is one of the symbols of the Brazilian city of São Paulo.

In the language of flowers, hydrangeas have many different meanings, depending on their colors. For example, pink hydrangeas represent romance and love, while blue hydrangeas represent regret and seeking forgiveness. Did you know that in one species of hydrangea – the Bigleaf Hydrangea – the color of its flowers is determined by the pH of the soil it’s planted in?

“Periwinkle” is a common name given to two related genera of flowering plants: Vinca (the European periwinkles) and Catharanthus (the Madagascar periwinkles). Though both very similar in appearance, Vinca periwinkles usually bloom in spring and prefer shade, while Catharanthus flowers typically flower in the summer and are suited to high heat and full sunlight.

Similarly to the differences in dragons’ portrayal in different cultures, snapdragons have two distinct meanings in the language of flowers – they can symbolize grace and strength, or they can symbolize deviousness. Snapdragons are also less commonly known as “dog’s mouth,” “lion’s mouth” and “toad’s mouth.” A Greek name for the flower, “kynokephelon,” means “dog-headed.”

With their creamy white flowers and strong sweet fragrance, gardenias have long been an exotic favorite! These heat-loving plants are native to tropical and subtropical regions of Asia, Africa, Madagascar and the Pacific Islands. Gardenias represent purity, sweetness and innocence. In the Victorian period, gardenias represented secret love and were commonly sent by secret admirers.

Marigold is the common name given to two genera in the sunflower/daisy family: Calendula and Tagetes. Tagetes marigolds are usually planted in gardens to repel bugs, while Calendula marigolds have been used extensively in medicine as ingredients in ointments, topical treatments, teas and other medicines. Extracts from these marigolds are used to treat skin conditions, muscle sprains and even fungal infections!

Carnations have rich symbolism in the language of flowers, with a history older than 2,000 years. One such meaning of the carnation comes from a Christian legend, which has it that pink carnations sprang from the Earth where the Virgin Mary’s tears fell, when she cried as Jesus carried his cross. Thus, pink carnations came to symbolize a mother’s undying love.

Geraniums, also commonly called stork's bills or crane's bills, are a very popular medicinal ingredient. The essential oil from these flowering plants have a plethora of applications, such as skin care, reducing irritation and inflammation, relieving pain, lowering levels of anxiety and stress, improving dental health, improving circulation and reducing blood pressure.

Lotus flowers are notable for having a very deep history of symbolism in many religions and cultures. Because lotus flowers slowly emerge from ponds and then bloom in the daytime, ancient Egyptians associated these flowers with rebirth and the sun. In Indian religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Sihkism, the lotus flower represents beauty and purity.

The Allium genus contains plants such as onions, garlic and scallion, and many of the species in the genus are grown decoratively for their attractive flowers. These alliums are often called “ornamental onions” and are prized for their almost perfectly round shape and flowers that are usually bright purple, blue or white. In the language of flowers, alliums represent unity, patience and humility.

The most common species of lavender – Lavandula angustifolia (a.k.a. the true lavender or English lavender) – is native to the Mediterranean. It’s called English lavender despite its origins because it quickly became a staple in English gardens after being introduced there. Lavender is valued for its medicinal properties, fragrance, rich color and ability to attract pollinators.

Did you know that gerberas are the fifth most-used cut flower worldwide? Common names of gerbera include “African daisy” (because the first species was discovered in South Africa), “Barberton daisy” and “Transvaal daisy.”

Hibiscus flowers are popularly used to make hibiscus tea, which has many health benefits apart from simply being low in calories and high in vitamin C. The tea helps manage blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, improves digestion, acts as an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent, and even has anti-cancer properties.

The spice saffron is obtained from the stigmas of Crocus sativus, the saffron crocus, and is one of the most expensive spices by weight in the world. This is because it’s difficult to manually extract so many tiny stigmas, with roughly 50,000 flowers needed to obtain just one pound of dry saffron! That requires an area of cultivation about the size of a soccer pitch.

Petunias are closely related to and in the same family as tobacco, as well as tomatoes, chili peppers and potatoes. The name “petunia” is derived from its South American Tupi-Guarani name “petun” which roughly meant “tobacco that doesn’t make good smoke.” In Mayan and Incan legend, petunias were thought to repel negative energy and underworld spirits.

Also known as “rose balsam,” “lady slipper” and “touch-me-not,” Impatiens balsamina has a wide range of applications in traditional medicine. The leaf juice is used to treat warts; the flowers are used to treat burns and scalds; and juice from the flowers is used to treat snakebites and also as an antibiotic against fungi.

These red flowers are ubiquitous around – and almost representative of – Christmas time! Poinsettia is also one of those flower names that everyone spells wrong, with “poinsetta” and “pointsettia” being just two of the common misspellings. Poinsettia is indigenous to Mexico and gets its common name from the first United States Minister to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, who introduced the plant to the U.S. in 1825.

Also called the English primrose or butter rose, Primula vulgaris is one of the surest signs of spring. Its name comes from the Latin “prima rosa” which means “first rose” - though it’s not a member of the rose family! Primrose leaves can be used to make tea, and young flowers can be used to make wine. In the language of flowers, primroses symbolize youth, innocence and lovers’ doubts.

The name “aster” is derived from an Ancient Greek word meaning “star,” describing the plant’s star-shaped flowers, and is a part of many Greek legends. One has it that goddess Astraea was turned into a star by Zeus and, whenever she wept, her stardust tears fell to the Earth and asters sprung forth. Asters were also thought by Ancient Greeks to be sacred and were placed on altars dedicated to the gods.

The 42 species of dahlia come in quite the size variety, ranging from 5cm to as much as 30cm (the latter commonly referred to as “dinnerplate dahlias.”) The dahlia is the national flower of Mexico and, in the language of flowers, symbolizes the power of inner strength, staying kind in tense situations and staying graceful under pressure.

Hyacinths have varying meanings depending on their color; yellow ones represent jealousy, blue ones represent sincerity and purple ones represent sorrow or regret. These flowers are also commonly associated with rebirth and spring, and are used in table settings for Nowruz, the Persian New Year celebration that is held at the Spring Equinox.

Sometimes just simply called “mums,” chrysanthemum can be quite the mouthful, literally; Chrysanthemum tea is popular, especially in China. The tea has many supposed medicinal applications that admittedly don’t have much research backing them, such as treating acne, fevers, chest pain, circulatory diseases and certain cancers. It also purportedly aids in clearing the liver and eyes.

Magnolias have varying symbolism in different cultures. For example, in China they symbolize womanly beauty and gentleness, and are commonly used to represent Yin, the female principle of the universe in Chinese philosophy. Also, scientific research has shown that the first flower – from 140 million years ago – looked similar to a modern magnolia!

White peony (which is actually the name given to the root of the peony plant after the bark is removed) is known to be very useful and is considered one of the oldest and most important herbs in Chinese traditional medicine. The root has been used to treat liver disease, menstrual pains, muscle cramps, anxiety and insomnia.

Lilies have always been symbolic flowers, with a plethora of meanings attached to them. In Victorian Britain, lilies symbolized love and affection, with orange ones specifically representing happiness and warmth. The Easter lily is an important Christian symbol, as Jesus directly referenced them. Also, lilies are commonly used in funerals, symbolizing that the deceased’s soul has returned to a state of innocence.

“Anemone” is derived from the Greek word meaning “windflower.” Greek mythology has it that Aphrodite, as she mourned the death of Adonis, her lover, caused anemones to spring from the ground where he bled. When the anemone’s petals close, it’s a signal of approaching rain. As such, the flower has come to often symbolize anticipation of and protection from bad luck and bad omens.

The Ixora genus is native to the tropics and subtropics and is made up of more than 500 species, but only a few are commonly cultivated! One such is Ixora coccinea (a.k.a. “jungle flame” or “jungle geranium”) which is the national flower of Suriname. Ixora flowers are popular choices for bonsai and hedges and are also a natural antiseptic used to treat wounds in some Asian countries.

Begonias are some of the most popular garden flowers and are found in flower beds practically everywhere, but in the language of flowers they have some rather dark symbolism. They symbolize unpleasant thoughts, being cautious of new surroundings, a warning to not fall into a false sense of security, and the anticipation of bad luck and challenges in the future.

Also known as “buttercup” and “Coyote’s eyes,” ranunculus is so named from a combination of two Latin words – “rana” and “unculus” meaning “frog” and “little” respectively – which perhaps refers to the fact that, like frogs, it is often found near streams and ponds. The name “Coyote’s eyes” comes from a Native American legend of the figure Coyote, who replaced his eyes with these flowers when Eagle ate them.

Broccoli is perhaps not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of flowering plants, but it’s a well-known fact that, if allowed to ripen and bloom past the stage they're normally cultivated and eaten, broccoli flowers are rather attractive. However, they lose their culinary status after flowering, due to a change in texture and flavor.

Impatiens walleriana is most often simply called “impatiens” but other common names for this plant include “Busy Lizzie,” “sultana” and “balsam” (not to be confused with Impatiens balsamina, whose common names also include balsam). It’s also not uncommon for them to be misspelled and mispronounced as “impatience” or “impatients.”

Did you know that zinnias have been grown in outer space? NASA announced in January 2016 that a zinnia grown on the International Space Station was the first flowering plant to grow in space! However, it’s been noted that in 2012 astronaut Don Pettit grew sunflower, zucchini and broccoli out of zip-lock bags and that in 2014 red romaine lettuce was also grown on the ISS.

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