Scientific names explained. A selection of Plants and birds whose common name begins with N. The letter N illustration that appears on this page is in the Public Domain Courtesy of Fae Creative commons.

avelwort. Umbilicus rupestris.

The common name of Navelwort derives from the unusual shape of the leaves and their central navel-like dimple. 

The genus name of Umbilicus is Latin for navel.

The specific name of rupestris indicates a plants growing on walls.


Nightshade,Deadly.  Atropa belladonna. 

The common name of Nightshade derives from the Old English word nihtscada,apparently night+shade,refers to the poisonous or soporific qualities of this group of plants. 

The genus name of Atropa is derived from  the Greek atropas,one of the fates who held the shears to cut the thread of human -life,again referring to its deadly poison.

The specific name of belladonna, is Italian for beautiful woman and alludes to the use by fashionable ladies of a drug extracted from the plant to dilute their pupils.Another school of thought states that the berries attracted the unwary like a beautiful but treacherous woman. Another states it may have derived from an old tradition that the priest's used to drink an infusion before they worshipped and invoked the aid of Bellona the goddess of war.


Nasturtium. Tropaeolum majus.

The common name of Nasturtium derives from the Latin nasus tortus,meaning a twisted nose ,or nose twisting. It is said that taste of some species and the aroma in others makes a person screw up their nose.

The genus name  of Tropaelum meaning a trophy derives from the Latin tropaian originally indicating the trunk of a tree on which were fixed shields and helmets of a defeated army.Linnaeus reminded of this when he saw a plant growing on a post ,the leaves represented the shields and the red flowers the blood stained helmets.

majus- the specific name indicates larger. 


ettle,stinging. Urtica dioica.

The word nettle may well derive from the Anglo-Saxon word 'noedl'  ,meaning a needle or point. This alludes to the sting,or from its wide spread use in days gone by as a thread.

The genus name Urtica is from Latin and indicates 'I Burn' again alluding to the nettles sting.

The specific name of dioica indicates of two houses. Male and female flowers grow on different plants As such it takes two plants one of each sex for pollination to occur.


Nettle-white dead. Lamium  alba

The common name indicates it does not sting and the colour of the flowers. 

The genus name of Labium derives from the Greek word  laimos meaning the throat alludes to the shape of the corolla.

The specific name of alba,Latin for white,-the flower colour. 


Nipplewort. Lapsana communis.

Nipplewort-the closed flower buds were said to resemble nipples and through the Doctrine of Signatures,were used to treat them.

Lapsana the genus name derives from the fact that the plant sometimes suffers from leaf discolouration,due to an attack by the fungus -Puccinia lapsanae.

The specific name of communis. Latin  in this instance indicating common or growing in communities.


Nipplewort Lapsana communis. 

Courtesy of Leslie Seaton CC BY-SA 2.0 License.


eedle-tails swift. Hirundapus caudacutus.

Hirundapus From the genera Hirundo {swallows} +pous foot.

The specific name of caudacutus derives from Latin cauda=tail+acutus=sharp pointed.


Nuthatch. Sitta europaea.

The common name of Nuthatch derives from the birds habit of cracking nuts with its beak hatcheting them.

Sitta the genus name comes from Greek sitte -a nuthatch

europaea  of Europe.


Northern Mockingbird .  Mimus ployglottos

The genus name and the common name alludes to the birds mimicking habit.

The specific name of polyglottos derives from the Greek polu or poly meaning many +glottos meaning tongue.


Naumann's thrush. Turus naumanni.

The Common name and the specific name  are named after Johann Andreas Naumann {1744-1826}, a German farmer and naturalist.

The genus name of Turdus is the Latin name for the thrush 

Naumann's thrush. Public domain courtesy of John Jennens {CC}

ightingale. Luscinia  megarhynchos.

The common name of nightingale derives from the old English nihtegale,which literally  means night singer,from nihte =night + galan,meaning to sing.

Luscinia The genus name derives from the Latin word for the nightingale.

The specific name of megarhynchos derives from the Greek megas + rhunkhos=bill.


Northern Water thrush .  Parkesia  noveboracensis.

The genus name of Parkesia,alludes to Kenneth C Parkes {1922-2007}  a US ornithologist,taxonomist and collector.

The specific name of noveboracensis derives from the Latin  novus=new +Eboracum {York UK } and New York USA.


Northern Parula. Setophaga americana.

The genus name of Setophaga derives from the Greek ses=a moth +phagein =to eat.

The specific name of americana =after America. 

Northern parula. Public domain courtesy of Daniel Berganza image taken in Florida.

More Latin names beginning with n you may come across in plant/bird books.

napiform= shaped like a turnip            nutans=nodding                     nerteros =lowly

natan-floating on water.                      nival-snow or growing in snow.

nepenthe a plant providing a drug.       nudicaul having stems without leaves

navicularis-boat shaped.                    nivalis -of snow.                      nobilis =noticeable

nola=a small bell.                             nomos=a meadow                   nema =a thread  

nemoralis=of woods                          nemos =grove or glade            nothos=false

nervosum-distinctly veined                 neoa=new                              nitida=glossy or shining 

nidus /neottia=a nest                        nocturum =night flowering        noctiflora=night flowering

nodosa=conspicuous nodes.             nidiflorus-flowers before leaves.

nudicaulis-bare stemmed                  nix=snow                                nitida=shining

nucifera=nut bearing.                        nothos=false-wrong                  notos=southern

novaehollandiae-from New Holland {Australia}                                   nebula =a mist

noveboracensis-from New York         naevius=spotted                       nyktos=night

nucifer=nut bearing                          nil=violet colour                         napus=turnip

nasus=nose                                    neo=spinning/spiral                  nana/nanos=dwarf

netta -indicates a duck                    novaeslandiae-from New Zealand.

neglectum-over-looked.                    nuphar -aquatic pernnilas {from Arabic name} 


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