Studying Latin names (Floristics- botany)

So I’m retaking an old course in Floristic/Botany, and needed a way to memorize ~350 names in Latin such as “Carex ovalis” for example. I used 3 methods for this which I describe bellow.

  • 1 name took me 2-5 minutes to memorize, and the first day I memorized ~ 30 names in ~3 hours, I quickly went through them a couple of times in the evening (with no need for my physical list), and today (one week later) I still remember those first 30.

Method 1 : memory palace with large loci.

First I created a big memory palace, using my own apartment, the national museum of natural history (where I happen to have a part-time job), the small lake just outside (which is rectangular and with an obelisk in the middle), my families vacation-house and some buildings from my university. I then separated several complexes into specific areas. The vacation-house I used for trees and shrubs, the lake for water or water-related plants, flowering herbs etc. I put inside the museum, and grasses in the university-buildings as well as some ferns. I made it bigger perhaps than needed to with 6 apartments, 2 houses, 4 buildings from my university, the museum and the outdoor lake.

Method 2: every word (such as “Carex ovalis”) I divided into as few parts as possible, every part sounding like something else. “Carex ovalis” would then be Car with the registration-plate XXX standing next to an oval table made out of ice(in swedish is=ice) in the cafeteria of the university-complex. If I had several names begining with “Carex” I placed them inside the same building.

Method 3: Some words end in the same way in latin, such as “Galium verum” with the ending “um”. This I created a specific object for, in this case an “Ute Mössa” wich means “outdoor hat” in Swedish. This hat I then put in a specific place inside the palace together with other objects with the same purpose. All these objects I the tossed into the loci whenever I needed them.

Example: Cynoglossum officinale, here I imagined an ice-cream (ice-cream = glass[swedish], which is similar to gloss) with glasses (Cyn sounds like Syn[swedish] = sight, which I relate to glasses) and an outdoor hat which tells me that I should add the ending with “UM” every time I visit this loci.

  • This is an herblike plant so I placed the ice-cream scenario inside the museum in a glass display case in one of the rooms.

-This method proved to be very powerful for learning these names, BUT to also remember how the actual plant looks of each individual loci proved very hard. To do this I’m using flash-cards with the plant on one side and name on the other.
-It may be possible to also create small details around each loci and use them to describe the specific plant, but this would be very tedious as 1 name takes me 2-5 minutes to remember. To also add events for the description of the plant could easily double the time it takes to learn or more, and would not be perfect as many plants look the same, and bigger loci starts degenerating faster (for me at least).

If you use this method and find it useful please tell me about it here, and if someone have a better way to do this I would love to hear your take on this.

Good luck!

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I’d like to bump this post as i’m attempting the same sort of thing. I’ve only read a little about memory techniques but the little i’ve read led me to do things almost the same as the above post. But i can’t help thinking that there might be a more sophisticated way?

I make no claim to “sophistication,” but if I were doing this, I’d be using exactly the same techniques described in the original post.

I will say, though, that if you really are inexperienced with memory techniques, you’re starting out with a fairly big task requiring multiple memory techniques. Please let us know how it goes—and ask questions here if you run into problems.


Welcome, Italicsthebold!
I am interested in the same thing.
I’m thinking of attaching the Latin names to actual plants I see along an imaginary nature walk.
I imagine walking along the path. There’s a sign that says “Quercus” and has an arrow pointing to a circle of trees. I stand in the middle, in a clearing, and look around. There is an actual red oak standing very tall and straight, Quercus rubra. I picture a rubix cube on the ground next to it to remember rubra.
The rubix cube is being cut by a saw, sawed in half. Then I notice that next to the Quercus rubra stands a sawtooth oak, Quercus acutissima. I imagine the “acute” teeth - the sharp teeth of the sawlike leaf edges.
The roots of the Quercus acutissima are drawing water from a swamp behind it. Then I notice there is a swamp white oak, Quercus bicolor right beside it. I picture the underside of the leaves, which are lighter than the top, being “glaucous” and I think “two-colored” leaves, bicolor, and so on.
Here I am creating two things for each tree - first an image to help me remember the scientific name, and second a link to the next tree in the area. What do you think?

I imagine grouping plants of the same genus would make it easier to get to know the entire genus and to distinguish one species from another.

Have fun and let us know how it goes!

Hi Carollyn, I’m finding that if i leave off even a part of the latin name then i don’t succeed. As such i need a continuing story. Schefflera actinophylla (umbrella tree), required a lairy chef carries a fancy umbrella but he is only acting so has no substance or filling. It had to be at the top of the wardrobe because it is an umbrella and shades out the broad leafed pepper one shelf down. I think i need real world placements or otherwise i’m guessing i will overload my imagination (which is already being challenged). Keep me posted on how you go.

Hi, Italicsthebold.
I hope your studies are going well.
I’ve noticed there are many books available about “botanical Latin” and I wonder if that would help. (Not that you have to buy a book - I think all these etymologies can be looked up online, though a good book may help you learn more efficiently.)
For example, actino means radiating. phylla means leaves. (Scheffler was 18th-century German botanist).
Putting Scheffler aside, knowing that in the “actinophylla” refers to radiating leaves may come in handy in other cases and eventually you may not need a mnemonic for actino- or phylla other than picturing the plant and understanding that the Latin name was inspired by its appearance.

Let us know how it’s going!

Fantastic! Thanks for that, it is quite inspiring because meaningless syllables are so frustrating.
I’m planning a walk around my farm to lay down my next memory palace. I like the idea of internalising my property like that.

That’s terrific, Italicsthebold.
I am experimenting with making a walk in my local park into a memory palace. I think that might be similar to you on your farm. What is your process?
We have a lot of trees in the park, so I’m thinking I create a sort of nature walk, centered on trees.
Once I have taken the walk a few times, and have a pretty strong memory of it, I plan to assign loci. Then for each locus which is a plant, I was thinking I would have 1) the common name of the plant after an adjective making it unique (so, the “crooked turkey oak” or the “stately sweetgum”, something I will remember). 2) the scientific name. 3) one botanical feature or concept I want to highlight.
For now, those three things per locus feels right. I think if I have different numbers of things relating to each locus I will lose track of them. I may add a fourth later, but try to add a fourth for every locus, not randomly.
Then, as I retake my walk, either in reality or in imagination, I am reviewing the appearance and qualities of the plant, the common name, the scientific name, and that special botanical feature or concept as well.

I look forward to hearing more about your progress!

One thing i’ve noticed about my first memory palace containing a local weeds list, is that although i did a good job with stories and relating the stories together, i did a bad job of getting a strong visual image of the location itself. It started in my sons wardrobe and each of the shelves looked much like the next. I think each location needs something to really distinguish it from the others, particularly those that are nearby.
I still haven’t done my walk yet, but i did put up a fence :roll_eyes:

Hi all!

I had all but forgotten about this post, but if you have any additional questions for me I’d be happy to try and answer them :slight_smile:

Welcome back!

Do you have any reflections on your OP? Retrospective improvements?