My dream when I was young was to be a ballet dancer, but I grew too big. So I was looking for my talent and, thank goodness, I was working as a lab boy, and found I could remember all these bloomin' Latin names.
Carl Linnaeus, who devised the system, was a great traveller and knew Latin would be the fairest language to use. "Lords and ladies", the flowering plant, has more than 470 common names, some of them pretty rude. So if I go and talk in China it's much better if I can just say "Arum maculatum".
My favourites are Phallus impudicus – a very naughty mushroom – and Parnassia palustris, a beautiful buttercup. And, of course, Rosmarinus, the plant with the greatest number of virtues – and the name of my wife these 50 years, Rosemary.
Professor David Bellamy is a patron of Southport Flower Show (20-23 August, 01704 547 147, www.southportflowershow.co.uk).Reuse content