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A Primer on Botanical Pronounciation

A Primer on Botanical Pronounciation

by Nicholas Von Robison

Originally published in American Lutherie #31, 1992 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie, Volume Three, 2004

Whenever luthiers sit down to talk wood, Latinized botanical names are neccesarily bandied about. When I was an undergraduate forestry student I witnessed a fistfight between two classmates who had a difference of opinion on how a certain botanical name should be pronounced, so to deter mayhem in the lutherie community, I offer the following rules and notes.

The accent method of pronunciation is not my own, but that of the great American botanist Liberty Hyde Bailey, whose Hortus series of encyclopedic reference books paved the way for a standardized method of pronunciation by most authorities. His How Plants Get Their Names also gives accent pronunciations as well as the meaning of many generic and specific botanical names. Your local library probably has this along with Hortus Second; and if they are up to date, Hortus Third. Many other botanical and horticultural references have adapted his conventions. His simple chart of sounds:

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