The Question:

What is the derivation of the name of the genus Commelina? And why was this name chosen? (I.e. You need to come up with the story behind the name. Why did Linnaeus choose this particular name for this genus? Just as he very deliberately chose the name Tillandsia for the Spanish Moss, he also had a particular reason for naming this genus.)

(In your answer, please state the source you used to find the answer.)

Send your answer to: kathy at the domain

I will post the name of the winner on the page unless you request otherwise.

I'm not certain yet what the prize will be. One possibility is a video about hiking the trail.

Note: Unlike Spanish Moss, this is a plant you may likely have seen along the trail though it is easily overlooked.

9:21 P.M. 1/30 - Rick Holt has supplied the correct answer and has reported that he received his video in the mail. Rick looked for the answer via a web search, and came up with it about 24 hours after the question was first posted. It turned out that I had the answer in the text of a webpage. Rick thought I had wanted to see if people would serach the Net for the answer and arrive at the page where I had the answer. This was not at all my intention. I hd totally forgotten that I had written the story somewhere on the web, and as soon as he told me, I went to the page and deleted it and decided to let the contest remain open to a second winner. It has now been restored to the place where he found it.

Nearly a month went by before the second winner's answer came in.

Date: Mon, 24 Feb 1997 09:40:44 +1000
From: Michael Weier (
Subject: Answer to Botany Quiz!!!

The naming of the genus Commelina:
Named after Dutch botanists Johan Commelin (1629-1692) and nephew Caspar (1667-1731). Linnaeus wrote "Commelina has flowers with 3 petals, 2 of which are showy, while the third is not conspicuous, from the 2 botanists Commelin, for the third died before accomplishing anything in botany.

Taken from "Dictionary of Botanical Names" by Don Perrin. Published by Green Data Projects - Brisbane Australia.

Michael Weier.

Here is a picture of the most commonly encountered Commelina species in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. It is an "exotic," namely, it is not native to the U.S.