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Weird Flower Names

By M.H. Dyer ; Updated September 21, 2017

The world of gardening is filled with strange and unusual flowers, many with odd habits, blooms, leaves, smells--and even weird names. There's usually something distinctive about the flower that warrants its weird moniker, and it can be great fun to figure out why. For example, some flower names, such as 'steer's head,' 'deer's ears,' 'elephant heads,' 'goosefoot,' 'ox tongue,' and 'stork's bill,' are all appropriately named because of their resemblance to a specific animal part. The 'Naked lady' plant consists of a huge bloom atop a tall, leafless stem, and 'Lady's Bedstraw' was dried and used to fill the mattresses of some women in medieval times.

Night-Flowering Catchfly

Night-flowering catchfly (Melandrium noctiflorum) has been grown in home gardens because of its beauty, creamy white blooms and sweet fragrance; but in spite of its positive qualities, it is often considered to be an invasive weed. Night-flowering catchfly, also known as 'sticky cockle,' 'clammy cockle,' and 'night-flowering siren,' consists of tall, hairy, woody stems, and leaves covered with sticky hairs. The flowers, which show from June to September, bloom at night and close at dawn.


Dodder (Cuscuta spp.), is only one of the many imaginative names given to this odd, morning glory cousin. Dodder is also known as 'strangleweed,' 'devils-guts,' 'pull-down,' 'tangle gut,' 'witches shoelaces,' and 'devil's ringlet'. Dodder is a parasite that germinates from seeds in spring, and will die if it doesn't find a host plant within a few days. The seedlings wave very slowly, and when they contact a suitable host, they twine around and draw nutrients from the unfortunate host plant. The dodder plant is so adaptable that it can even move from one host plant to another. Although the host plant doesn't usually die, it will have an unhealthy appearance until the dodder plant moves on.

Bat Face Cuphea

Bat face cuphea (Cuphea llavea Lex)--also known as 'bunny ears,' 'cigar plant', 'tiny mice,' or 'St. Peter's plant'--is a carefree, perennial shrub that grows in warm, frost-free climates. Bat face cuphea will tolerate light shade, but prefers full sun, and although it's drought tolerant, it will do best with moist soil. The distinctive flowers of the bat face plant look like little bat faces with bright red ears that will bloom, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds from spring to autumn.


About the Author


M.H. Dyer began her writing career as a staff writer at a community newspaper and is now a full-time commercial writer. She writes about a variety of topics, with a focus on sustainable, pesticide- and herbicide-free gardening. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener and Master Naturalist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction writing.