The presidential election will be over tomorrow, and not a moment too soon for many Americans. So let’s take a break from the rhetoric and revelations and think about presidents of the past and the plants they have had named for them. It’s an impressive list of both presidents and plants.
Ever since Carl Linneaus (the Swedish botantst who developed the binomial naming system for plants) named Rudbeckia for his mentor and friend Olaus Rudbeck the Younger, plants have been named for people. First ladies of the United States often have roses named for them. Some of these roses, such as the Pat Nixon rose, are hard to find these days. Lady Bird Johnson also has a Texas bluebonnet species named for her because of her promotion of wildflowers and native plants. Eleanor Roosevelt has an iris, a daylily and a croton named in her honor. Given her love of vegetable gardening, I hope Michelle Obama has a tomato named for her!
But the first ladies are not the only ones with plants named after them. Abraham Lincoln has four roses named for him, the most popular of which is Mr. Lincoln, a tall, vibrant red rose that is great for cutting and bouquets. Herbert Hoover doesn’t usually get high marks as a president, but the President Hoover rose is considered one of the prettiest presidential plants, a beautiful orange-coral-pink hybrid tea. The John F. Kennedy rose is a beautiful white tea rose and the President Eisenhower rose is a red rose with a strong fragrance. George Washington rose is another red one as is the Ronald Reagan rose, introduced by Jackson and Perkins.
Befitting a president who was also the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson has an entire genus of plants named after him. Jeffersonia is a woodland plant, sometimes called twin leaf, that is native from Jefferson’s native Virginia to Wisconsin. It’s somewhat rare and grows in deep shade. It’s fitting that Jefferson, who loved horticulture as much as he loved his country, has an entire genus named for him.
—Mary Lahr Schier
**Photos courtesy of Creative Commons