Field of Science

What's in a name? They're blue and bell-shaped.

A pox on common names is certainly deserved in that they are never precise and often terribly confusing. Still people prefer a fuzzy, whuzzy, common name no matter the consequences.  While walking through our gardens, a friend asked TPP a question as a case in point, "Are those bluebells?"  Yes (In reference to image below.).  "Well, they looked a lot different in England."  How very true; how very observant. There you have it in a nutshell. There are no conventions on common names and so every flower that is blue, and nods, and is even vaguely "bell-shaped" could be called bluebells, and there are a lot of those. Here in eastern North America the so-called bluebell is a member of the borage family, Mertensia virginica. The flowers are bell-shaped in a trumpet sort of way. The English (and the closely related Spanish & Italian) bluebell is a member of the former lily family, Hyacinthoides (Scilla) non-scripta (hispanica, italica), and yes, they look rather like a hyancinth (Hyacinthus), and both genera are now in the asparagus family.  There are also Scottish bluebells, Texas bluebells, desert bluebells, and Australian bluebells (TPP thinks. Maybe a reader can confirm.)  All in different genera, all in different families, and it still doesn't stop because TPP once saw grape hyacinth (Muscari), which is neither grape nor hyacinth, labelled a bluebell, a very apt description, but not a very apt common name. 

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