Wildflower names arise for many reasons. Myth or legend inspires some names. The forget-me-not, for instance, is said to be named after a German knight's last exhortation to his love as he was swept away by a flood. He'd been picking flowers--forget-me-nots--which he managed to toss her before he disappeared. Other wildflowers like the bouncing-Bet are named after people, in this flower's case, a washer woman, since the leaves can scour. Appearance and other obvious attributes commonly lead to wildflower names. This is potentially useful for gardeners seeking to identify specimens.
The catchfly, which has the botanical name Silene armeria, also goes by the name none-so-pretty, among others. The flower is named catchfly because its magenta or red flowers are sticky. The plant is native to USDA hardiness zones 4 to 9 in the central United States. It grows in prairies and woods and is endangered in Illinois and Indiana.
The well-loved wildflower called Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) is so named because of its dark center, which is wreathed by sunny petals that radiate out from the dark brown center. As described in a poem, legend around the flower says a dark-eyed woman named Susan searched for her love Sweet William, looking among the ships of a fleet. Sweet William is another wildflower that blooms at the same time as black-eyed Susan.
Ghost-flower (Monotropa uniflora) is also known as corpse plant. The plant is so named because of its blue-white flowers that look ghostly. Indeed, even the plant's stalks are white. Given that the ghost-flower can grow in the dark, it is aptly named. The flower is one of the woodlands and is found in the eastern United States, where it is sometimes mistaken for a fungus.
The ground cone (Boschniakia strobilacea) wildflower is found in the southwest mountains of the United States. The flower gets its name from the stalk that pushes from the ground as it grows, looking like a pine cone sitting on the ground. Small purple flowers emerge from between what look like the pine cone's scales.
The bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is a woodland flower. The name comes from the sap of its root, which is red like blood. Distributed in the eastern United States, the flower belies the blood-colored sap, for the blossom is white and delicate, heralding spring as an early bloomer.