Scientific names explained. A selection of plants and birds whose common name begins with S. The letter S illustrations that appear on this page are Public domain courtesy of Fae Creative Commons.

hepher'd purse. Capsella bursa pastoris.

The common name of shepherd's purse  alludes to the seed pods which are heart shaped,and when held to the light the seeds inside appear to be like money in a purse..Another explanation is that the seed pods are similar in shape to the leather 'bags' that shepherd's carried their vituals out to the fields.They are also referred to as Shepherd's scrip {wallet].

The scientific name Capsella bursa pastoris is a medical term given to a liquid extract obtained from the plant.

Capsella also indicates a box,probably alludes to the seed pods. 


Sneezewort. Achillea ptarmica.

The common name of Sneezewort.Medieval herbalist used the plant to clear the head .A powder was made from the plant that when taken as a snuff would produce sneezing.

The genus name of Achillea is named after the  Greek hero Achilles who was said to have used the plant medicinally. 

ptarmica derives from the Greek ptarmos,meaning sneeze.


Shepherd's needle. Scandix pectan veneris

The common name and other country names such as  'Old wives darning needle','hedgehogs' and ' Ladies comb' all refer to the distinctive fruits.Each one has a very long beak up to two inches long. This collection of long slender spikes,sticking upwards ia an obvious feature of the plant.

The genus name of Scandix derives from the Greek xandis,meaning a comb,again alluding to the long fruits.

the species name of pectan veneris literally means comb of Venus. 

Shepherd's needle courtesy of G Hagedorn CC BY-SA 3.0 unported license.

tarwort,Water. Callitriche stagnalis.

The common name of Starwort alludes to the petal formation of this aquatic plant. 

The genus name of Callitriche is derived from the Greek kallos,indicating beautiful + trichos meaning hair,alluding to the delicate foliage.

The specific name of stagnalis  means growing in still or stagnant water. { this species also grows in slow moving streams}


Speedwell,Heath. Veronica officinalis. 

The name may have derived from a reference to the plants curative powers. Or the flowers of the plant were given to people to start their journeys {a lucky charm} to speed them well on their way..Similarly used in days gone by as 'Fare thee well'. 

Veronica the genus name,is thought to be dedicated to St. Veronica,who is said to have wiped Christ's face with it on his walk carrying the cross. Some authorities claim the name derives from the plants supposed ability to cure a long list of ailments. 

The specific name of officinallis indicates it was sold as a drug at the Apothecary.


Marsh Skullcap. Scutellaria galericulata.

The common name derives from the five seplas of the plant which fuse together to form a curious two-lipped tube, the back of which bears a broad pouch-like scale. The scale [resembles part of a skull } is characteristic of all the shullcaps and distinguishes them from other members of the mint family.

The genus name of scutellaria derives from Latin scutella meaning a dish,referring to the appearance of the calyx in fruit.

The specific name of galericulata derives from galea indicating a part or organ shaped like a helmet or hood. 

Uploaded to Creative Commons via Albert Herring under CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic license.

caup. Athya marila.

The common name of Scaup is a Scottish variant of Scalp. 

The genus name of Athya derives from the Greek aithula ,a sea bird described by  Aristotle.

The specific name marila derives from Greek and indicates charcoal embers. {colour of plumage.}


Surf Scoter.  Melanitta perspicillata

The genus name of Melanitta  Derives from the Grek melas meaning black+netta -a duck.

The specific name of perspicillata derives from Latin and indicates Spectacled.


Spoonbill.  Platalea leucorodia.

The genus name of Platalea is the Latin name for the Spoonbill.

The specific name of leucorodia derives from the Greek leukos=white + erodius=a heron. 

Spoonbill. Courtesy of princetonnature CC BY-SA 3.0 unported license. Crossley's ID guide to Britain and Ireland. Richard Crossley

tone curlew. Burhinus oedicnemus

The genus name  Burhinus derives from Bous=Ox{bull} +rhinos=nose.

The specific name oedicnemus derives from the Greek oideo=swelling + kneme=knee.


Stock Dove. Columba oenas.

The genus name of Columba is the Latin name for a pigeon or dove. 

The specific name of oenas derives from the Greek name for the Pigeon oinas.


Subalpine Warbler. Sylvia  cantillans.

The genus name of Sylvia derives from the Latin silva =wood

The specific name of cantillans derives from the Latin cantillare meaning to warble

Subalpine warbler. Courtesy of Mick Sway. originally posted to Flickr. Uploaded to Creative Commons  by Patko erica under the CCA 2.0 Generic license

Other Latin words you may encounter while reading bird and plant books.

Sagittata=arrow-shaped head         sagitta=arrow                 salix=willow

salvus=safe                                  sanguis=blood                sapo=soap

sarcos=flesh                                saxum=rock/stone          sanquinea=red                

sauros=lizard                               sakos=a shield               sativum= cultivated crop plant.

saxicola=of rocky places              salicifolium-leaves like salix {willow}

saxosa-of stony places                 salignus=leaves like willow.

sacocaulis=fleshy stems               saccharinum=sugary [sap]  

Scutella=small dish                      sal=salt                           sol= sun

sabolifera=bearing offsprings {bulblets}                               schoines= a rush

scandens = climbing                   scandere=climbing           scordonia-indicates garlic

schizo=to divide                          scorzon=viper                  scopa=thin

scutatus=shield bearing.             scabra=rough                   scuphus=cup

soma=body                                senilis=old                       sempervirens =evergreen

serrulata=small teeth {leaves}      serrata=saw toothed.        serratipetala=toothed petals.

serra=saw                                 sericofera= silk bearing     seta=bristly

setosa=bristly/hairy                   sempa=always/ever           selene/silene=moon

semperflorens=ever-flowering       sedero/sedo=to sit.           serotnus=late flowering

secundiflora-flowers all on one side                                    serphyllifolius Thyme-leaved.

sessile=unstalked                    semidenta=halkf-toothed    sinica/sinensis=of China

siphon =tube                            solen=tube                       sinuatus=curved

sialon=saliva                            sinapi=mustard                 skiados=umbell  

sorbeo=absorb                         soldo=a small coin            solido=to make whole /strenghten  

socialis=growing in colonies      solida=tuber/solid              soros=heap

saroria=sisterly-resembling other species.                         solar='I ease' medicinal.

spicata=spikes {flowers}           spinosa=spiny                  stachys=spikes

spiculifolia=spiky leaves.           spilos=spot                      spiralis=spiral

spurium =false                        spargo='I spread'                speculum=mirror

sparraso=to tear                      squamosa=scaly              squamose=scale

squarrose-bracts having a rough surface.                           staphyle=cluster.

streptos=twisted                    stephanos=crown                strobilos=a cone  

stroma= red                           stellatum= small stars        stellaria= little star    

stagnalis-growing in still water.                                        stege= a covering

striata=striped                       stoma/stomata=mouth        stemom-stamen

stricta=upright                       strucre='to spread'              surculus= a twig

strix=screech owl                   stellata= star-like               strangulus= round

strigose=stiff bristly hairs       sub-alpina-below the tree {mountains}

sulpherous=sulphar yellow     subula=awl                        supina=prostrate

suspensa=hanging                suavedens=sweetly scented

superbus=suberb                 symploke= connection        symphysis=growing together.

syrinxx=pipe                        sykon=fig                           syn-indicates together

stramineus=straw coloured.                                          sagina=Fodder plant/fattening

stylos= style                       sepes/sepium=a hedge       sapiens=wise

saura/saur=a lizard             septem=seven                     sphen=a wedge

sucho=a crocadile               sinensis= China                   sibilare=to whistle

strepera/Streperus=noisy                                              svecia=of Sweden  

scuecicus=of Sweden          sucus=juice                         





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