Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Flower No Longer Smells as Sweet as It Did Before

Here, I found some flowers for you.

Don't you find them beautiful, these tiny purple wildflowers? See how proudly their stems shoot up from the ground, each one culminating in elegant purple trumpet forms? They draw they eye not through ostentation but pure, simple beauty, like refined ladies gliding through a crowd of overly ornamented women who wish they too could shine so easily. Surely, these flowers must have a name that reflects their name. Oh? Orobanche uniflora? How lovely. It's like an angel whispering a sweet secret to a princess. And the common name?


I must have misunderstood you. Please say it again?

I see. So I did hear you correctly the first time. I don't think I shall talk to you anymore.

(And... scene.)

Yes, this little flower — technically a parasitic herb — is known to English speakers as naked broomrape, although I'd imagine most people take care when actually speaking this name since it's the kind of thing that could draw a lot of negative attention. The rape here is the plant one, from the Latin rapa, meaning "turnip." The broom is basically the same as our word broom, just not referring the stick and instead to the bristles at the bottom, which back in the day would have been made from whatever shrubby plants would collect dirt.

In looking up the etymology of good ol' broomrape, I stumbled upon this blog post that also notes how awful the name sounds, even after you learn where the term comes from. The author notes several different wildflowers, including another one that, like Naked Broomrape shall join my "Ha ha — This [Thing]'s name" series: the pussytoes.

Hat tip to Dina for this. May I encourage readers unfamiliar “Ha ha — This [Thing’s] Name” series to give it a spin if they ever feel like their parents saddled them with a clunker of a name?


  1. Anonymous12:17 PM

    If you're having trouble with your broomrape, you might want to lube it up with some rape oil -- better known, these days, as canola.

  2. There are a lot of Japanese haiku about "na no hana" or as early translators tended to put it "rape blossoms."

    Later translators tend to say "mustard flowers."