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Where do plant names come from?




By Debby Looney, gardening expert

Have you ever opened up a gardening book and been confused by all the names?

It is pretty daunting to be faced with Latin, illegible and irrelevant words, possibly very few pictures and a whole gamut of words in italics.

Many people just close the book again thinking they will not make any sense of it, which is a shame, as so much can be learned! I meet people who grumble that they cannot find a plant in a book, or by Googling it, and this is often because they are using the common name, which, especially with Google, will bring up an unfamiliar plant on an American website. Imagine if all plants only had a common name - it would be great! Or maybe not so handy, for example, take the flower ‘Bluebell’ - in Ireland it can be one of two species of bulb, in Australia it’s a climber and in America it’s a Mertensia. If I say I love Spirea, do you think of as Sorbaria, Astilbe, goatsbeard or an actual Spirea?

So how did we arrive at the correct names we have?

We owe our binomial nomenclature, to give it its correct terminology, to Carl Linneaus, a Swedish naturalist born in 1707. He studied medicine and botany, which was one of the required subjects when studying medicine. At the age of 30 he developed a system of classification for all organisms, which is more or less still the one we use. Unfortunately for us, Latin was the scientific language of the time, so this is what has been kept. The genus and species names are always italicised (something about which I am very lazy), or, in handwriting, underlined.

When you look at a plant name, for example Cornus sanguinea, the first part denotes the genus, which is a large group of plants sharing similar characteristics. The second part is the species with the name often descriptive, in this case sanguinea comes from the Latin for blood, as Cornus sanguinea has brightly coloured stems. The species name can relate to many different characteristics, where a plant comes from as in japonica - Japan, occidentalis – America, arabis – Arabia, - or colour; alba - white, purpurea – purple. Where it grows; saxatile – rocks, campestris – fields, how it grows; fruticosa – bushy, repens – creeping, and so on.

There are a few curveballs thrown in too, where a plant is named after a person, as in fortuneii – Robert Fortune - who is credited with bringing us tea!), or darwinii - Charles Darwin. The RHS have a lovely book called 'Latin for Gardeners' which is a gem if you are interested in this type of thing!

Now is the time to start thinking about the flower garden. It is the perfect time to plant begonia bulbs in pots, as starting them off in the greenhouse or even shed will get you a much earlier flowering time. The depressed part of the bulb is the top, which is unusual. Do not plant them too deep! Dahlias are also available currently, again it is a good idea to start them off indoors, as they are not very hardy if we get a late frost. Plant them with their crown level to the soil, and when shoots appear only leave five grow. I know it seems wrong, but this will produce strong plants with a lot of flowers. As Dahlias grow, pinch the top of the shoots out to encourage bushy growth. All dahlias have different speeds at which they grow, so don’t despair if one seems very slow compared to others!



Fossa School says ‘bonjour’ to French classes



Fossa National School is giving its pupils a headstart in learning a new language.

The school signed up to Language Sampler scheme as part of the ‘Say Yes to Languages’ initiative in primary schools organised by Post Primary languages Ireland in 2021. This is the school’s third year running the module.

Hélène Olivier-Courtney, the school’s French teacher and director of French For All Killarney School of French, covers ten schools in Kerry over the three terms.

The success of the initiative relies on an all-school approach and the active involvement of class teachers and management.

“The whole staff in Fossa certainly helped make this new journey a special and enjoyable experience for the children as we learnt French through art, songs, games and food tasting! This year, we also organised a catwalk on our last day. Our sixth-class students will have such a head start before secondary school and most importantly will have develop curiosity interest and love for the language,” said Hélène.


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Opinion: Silent majority needs to stand up and call out far-right hate



By Chris Davies

Last Friday’s Dublin Riots should not have come as a surprise to anyone. It has been bubbling under the surface of Irish society for a good number of years now. The actions of a small minority last week was a culmination of years of racism, hatred and misinformation shared online by far-right groups.

Late on Friday night a disturbing WhatsApp voice note was doing the rounds on social media where a far-right actor could clearly be heard encouraging violence on the streets of Dublin. 

“’Seven o’clock, be in town. Everyone bally up, tool up…Any foreigner, just kill them”

Watching the Riots unfold on social media brought me back to when I was working in Dublin a number of years back. My morning commute from Skerries to the city centre involved a dart to Connolly Station followed by a short trip on the Luas to the Jervis. Every week, without fail, I would witness at least one racial slur or attack on someone who didn’t fit the narrow minded view of what an Irish person should look, dress or talk like. I don’t know if it is the eerie silence of public transport that seems to amplify the situation, but that’s where I found it to be most common. The abuse was usually perpetrated by a group of youths or someone who was clearly under the influence of drink or drugs. The victims were always of colour, often dressed smartly enough to presume they were on their way, or coming from work. A far cry from the perpetrators who you could tell were roaming aimlessly around the city looking for trouble.

While shameful to admit, I would often look on and watch the abuse unfold, only to spend the rest of my work day thinking about the poor person who was told to “F*&K off back to your own country”. I would sit at my desk questioning why I didn’t step in and say something. There were one or two occasions where I did step in and call it out, but not nearly often enough.  

This disgusting behaviour is much more visible in our cities. Since moving back to Killarney I wouldn’t witness as much direct abuse on the streets but working with the Killarney Advertiser I would be tuned in to local news and some of the comments I read on our social platforms are far worse than anything I witnessed during my time in Dublin.  

There is a significant group of people in Ireland that I would call the ‘silent majority’. We are not as outspoken on issues we care about. We tend to observe and consume the news quietly, and only speak of our support or disgust on certain issues in close circles, too afraid we might offend someone. The problem with this is that we are leaving these far-right groups unchallenged, to become louder, more aggressive and more hostile as seen last week. 

The past week Sinn Fein and the Social Democrats have been busy in the media expressing no confidence in Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris but I would suggest that there is a large percentage of the Irish population that bears some of the responsibility. We witness racism in our communities and online every day and we need to start speaking up and calling it out. 

On the issue of immigration in Killarney, there is no doubt resources are being stretched and our tourism industry is suffering as a result of an influx of immigration. Locals have also raised concerns in relation to the placement of so many male international protection applicants in one setting and we only have to look back on the incident in Hotel Killarney last year where a number of men were involved in a harrowing stabbing incident to see how that played out.  

However, being concerned around immigration is not the same as anti-immigration. It is important to raise these issues with local representatives and Kerry TD’s but also to separate ourselves from far-right groups who are only interested in encouraging violence.  

The anarchy we witnessed last week should never be the answer and research shows it is completely unnecessary. Harvard University have looked at hundreds of protests over the last century, and found that non-violent campaigns are twice as likely to achieve their goals as violent campaigns and that it only takes around 3.5% of the population actively participating in the protests to ensure serious political change.

Let’s continue to protest peacefully for issues we believe in, but stand up and speak out against people and movements in our community that incite hate and violence. 

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