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What's In a Name?

By Mrs. Breclaw, Outdoor Learning





In the Horticulture Science and Floral Design classes, we’ve spent some time talking about taxonomy, and why it’s so important to use scientific names when discussing plants and flowers. Not only do Latin names give us a universal language, they can also help us understand plants better. For example, you may not know what poison ivy looks like, but if someone told you that it’s name was Toxicodendron radicans, you probably don’t even need to know Latin to understand you should stay away from it.


Latin names of plants can help us learn so many interesting characteristics of a plant– where it’s from, what it looks like, how it grows, or even the scientist who named it first. And every once in a while, Latin names remind us that the God who created the universe also created every perfect detail of the Nolan Catholic courtyards.


Mary’s courtyard, located between A and B halls, is a quiet space for students and teachers to enjoy. When we redesigned the courtyards six years ago, a debate raged about whether or not to keep the large bush (or tree) in the courtyard. Apparently, that tree has been around as long as anyone can remember, even though no one knew what kind of tree it was. A couple of years ago, a Nolan student built a small pond by the tree for his Eagle Scout project. Students enjoying the pond commented about how cool it would be to have a statue of the “Woman at the Well” by the pond. I looked online to see if such a statue existed, and saw a picture of a beautiful one at Notre Dame. The caption explained that the woman at the well is called Photinia (Greek for light) because she brought the light of Christ to her people. Too soon after to be a coincidence, I also learned the scientific name of the tree by the pond: Photinia serratifolia, so named because its shiny leaves reflect light. Isn’t it amazing how God uses even Latin names to remind us of his loving attention?


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