Scientific names explained a selection of plants and birds whose common name begins with P. The letter P illustration that occurs on this page is Public Domain uploaded to Creative Commons by Fae

oppy,Opium.  Papavar somniferum

The common name of Poppy derives from the old English word popieg ultimately for the Latin papavar.

the genus name of Papavar is the Latin name for the Poppy.

The genus name of somniferum alludes to the plant yielding narcotic substances such as heroin and morphine {derivatives of opium., the plant was given its species name after Somnus the Roman god of sleep.

Opium comes from Latin meaning poppy juice from Greek opion from a diminutive of opos -juice of a plant.


Pansy,wild  Viola tricolor.

Pansy the name derives from the old French name of pensee,which indicates thought,because traditionally the pansy is a symbol of remembrance. It is also associated with love accounting for such names as heart's ease,love in idleness and the more earthly kiss-me-quick. 

Viola is the Latin name for the plant family, in particular the Violet.

The specific name tricolor means three coloured and refers to the fact that the flowers may be yellow,violet or blue {rarely can be pink} sometimes occurs in a mixture of two or even three colours which is not unusual. .


Pennywort,Marsh. Hydrocotyle vulgaris.

The Common name of pennywort derives from the fact that it has round,penny-like leaves.

The genus name of Hydrocotyle derives from the Greek hydor meaning water+kotule meaning a cup. Alludes to the station and the cup like leaves. 

Viola tricolor cultivars. Dals images

arsnip, Wild.  Pastinaca sativa.

The common name of Parsnip. Many explanations have been given for the explanation of the name. Only one thing seems to be sure,it comes from Latin name for the plant. From pastinare meaning to dig.It is also influenced by the Middel English nepe=turnip

The genus name of Pastinaca is also related to the explanation above. Could derive also from the Latin pastus Latin for pasture one of the plants habitats.

The specific name of sativa indicates -grown for a food crop 


Pimpernel,Yellow. Lysimachia nemorum

The common name of Pimpernel derives from the old French word pimpernelle,ultimately from Latin piper meaning pepper,or it may come from bipinella,which is a diminutive  of the Latin bipinnis meaning two winged referring to the two leaves of bog pimpernel.

Lyshimachia the genus name -is named after an ancient king of Thrace who was reputed to have used the related Loosestrifesmedicinally.The name was given to the plant because it is more closely related to the Loosestrifes than the Pimpernels.

The specific name of nemorum ,means of Glades and refers to the woodland habitat. 


Plantain,Ribwort. Plantago lanceolata.

The common name of Ribwort alludes to the underside of the leaves which have three to five parallel  veins which stand out prominently and resemble ribs.

The genus name of Plantago derives from the Latin planta indicating the sole of a foot,refers to the shape of the broader leaved species such as P.major.

The specific name of lanceolata means lance -shaped and alludes to the leaves. 

Ribwort plantain. Courtesy of sannse CC BY-SA 3.0 unported license.

Ribwort 600.jpg

intail duck. Anas acuta

Anas-Latin for duck 

acuta derives from the Latin acutus meaning sharp pointed and refers to the tail as does the birds common name.


Ptarmigan. Lagopus muta .

The common name derives from Scottish Gaelic word tarmachen probably influenced by Greek pteron =wing. The Gaelic word is of obscure origin.

The genus name of Lagopus  derives from the Greek lagos=a hare+ pous =foot.

The specific name of muta  means silent.


Pheasant. Phasianus colchicus.

The common name of Pheasant derives from the old French word fesan

Phasianus is named after the River Phasis in ancient Colchis were the Argonauts found many pheasants.

The specific name of colchicus is named after  Colchis -Georgia.

Pheasant. Courtesy of gary noon-Flickr CC BY -SA 2.0 Generic license

etrel,Storm. Hydrobates pelagicus.

The common name is from an old name pittera associated with St Peter because the bird appears to walk on water.

The genus name of Hydrobates,derives from the Greek hudro meaning water.+ baino=to tread.

The specific name of pelagicus derives from the Greek pelagos alludes to the open sea.


Purple heron. Ardea purpurea.

The common name of heron derives from the old French hairon of Germanic origin 

The genus name of Ardea is the Latin name for the heron

The specific name  derives from the Greek porphoreos meaning purple


Plover,Ringed.  Charadrius hiaticula.

Ringed in the common name refers to the band around the birds neck.

The genus name of Charadrius derives from the Greek kharadra -a ravine

The species name of hiaticula- from the Latin hiatus=a cleft+ colere-to inhabit. 

Ringed Plover courtesy of CharlesjSharp {Sharp photography} CC BY-SA 4.0 license.


Other Latin names you may come across when reading Bird/Plant books.

palmate-  resembling a hand.               peltate-shield shaped.       pinnate-feather shaped.

plumose-feathery {strands}                  pallidus-pale                     panniculata-forming a panicle

parva/parvum-very small                     patula- spreading              

pedata/pedate-leaves cut into divisions with the lower divisions again lobed.

pinnatus- when leaves are arranged along the side of a common petiole.

platycentra-from platys meaning flat +kentron =a spur {flattened spur}

platyclada,from platys=flat+klados-a branch {flat stemmed}

platystemon from platys + stemon =a stamen {flattened stamen}

primus=first                                     pudica=modest                 pumila-dwarf

punicea=reddish/red or purple coloured.                                    purpurea-purple. 

pyr   =fire   {sometimes alludes to hot taste.}                             pter=wing

pulchellus=pretty/little                     punctatus= spotted             para=close/near

papililio=betterfly/moth                     palmatum =hand-like          paviflorum=small flowered

pauciflower-few flowered.                 parthenos=virgin                 pachys=thick/dense

pallidifolia-pale leaved                     pallidiflora=pale flowered.     phalaina=moth {Greek}

pavia=flesh coloured.                      pavifolia=small leaved          pavonius=Peacock

pandalianches=poisonous plant.     praeltum-very tall                 paries=wall

panax=a panacea                         pallescens=rather pale         paradoxa=unusual.

pedatum=like a birds foot              pentaphyllos =five leaved       petalon=petal          

petatos=broad rimmed hat             peri=around                         peperi=pepper {taste}

pente=five                                     penna=feather                     penios=thread.      

pellaios= dark                               pelargos=a stork.                pedilon=a slipper {flower shape}

perulatus-prominent bud scales       petros=rock                       peregrina=foreign

perforata-stem perfoliates leaves    pennata =feathery                plumosa=feathery

perfoliata=leaf embracing stem       peruviana=of Peru                pege=fountain

petraeus-growing on rocks.            pectenus=comb-like            pediculus=louse

philos=lover                                  phorea=to bear                    physa/phusa=a bladder

phylla=tribe                                  phyge=flight                         photos=light

phlox=flame coloured                    phileo/philen=to love             phellos=cork

phaisus/phaem =dusky                 phakelos=bundle                  phragma=partion

phlebion=vein                               phyllum= a leaf                    phullen=a leaf

pipto=fall                                     pistos=water                        plicatus=pleated

pictum=painted                            pikra=bitter taste                  pileus=a cap

pimele=fat {Greek}                        pinguis=Fat {Latin}               pilosum=hairy

pilosa/pilosus=long soft hairs        pingulifolia=fat leaves           pinnata=pinnate leaves

pisifera=pea bearing                     pirus/pyrus=a pear               picus=woodpecker

pica =magpie                              palus/palustris=a marsh        podex=anus

phoinix=crimson                         pusillus =tiny /pretty              plectrum=a spur

pleniflora=double flowered             pluvialis=of rain                    pleris/pterido=a fern

pleron=wing                                plagios=oblique                     plumbum=lead   

pleios=alludes to many                polys=manyor much              polybulben=many bulbs

polytricha=many hairs                 polynerva=many veins           polychroma=many coloured

pomifera=apple bearing               podophyllum= stoutly stalked leaves.

pogon=beard                              potamus=river                       potens=powerful/potent

podraga=gout                             poterion=a cap                      polifolia =grey leaved

poma/pomum=apple                    ponderosa=heavy                 platyglossa=broad tongued.

pituos=pine tree                         psittacus=a parrot.                praecox=early

praestans=distinguished             praeteritum=over-looked         procumbens=spreading

praealtum = very tall                   pratensis=of meadows           pratense=of meadows

pravissima=very crooked             primus=first.                         procurrens=spreading.

procera=tall                               prumne=stern                       proboskis-elephants trunk.

praealtum=very tall.                    pulla=dark                            polios=grey

psuedo=false                             pudica=shy or humble plant.

purgans=purging                        pulverulenta=dusty                pulso=to strike

pungens=spiny leaved                puniceum=reddish purple       pulvinata=cushion like

pullus=young animal/bird           pulsata =beaten { by the wind}

porro=forward                           psyche={Greek} alluding to a

pyxis-a box for medicine            pyros=wheat                        parnosus=felt-like

phaeum=dusky                         phyton= a plant.                   planum=flat

platys=broad                            principis=distinguished          patens=spreading

pulverulenta= mealy                  prosthema=an appendage      pachy=thick/stout

pyrenaica=from the Pyrenees          pedi/pes/pedis=foot         protos =first. 







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This series -Scientific names explained is in an A_Z format. Click on the relevant content banner on the right hand side of this page for the letter.

Most of the species on this page have a page on the site {or via links} dedicated to them.

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