A Historic Timeline of Houseplants


Carl Linnaeus - Copyright: newscientist.com


History

Houseplants were first used as indoor decorations between the years 500 and 400 BC. Wealthy families who had a large estate would use Roses, Thyme and Hyacinths to liven-up their forecourts and windowsills. While the Greeks preferred using terracotta pots; it was the Romans who took a shine to marble, thus signalling the start of indoor specimens with unique textured pots.


Before we start, this article comprises of the decade in which each genus and species were first formally classified. Of course, species were known to humans way before this date. Still, it wasn’t until the dawn of the ‘Binomial Nomenclature’ that genera and plants were first mentioned in horticultural documents. The species names are in italics.




The Reasonings for Their Names

Every genera and species have a compelling reason for the origins of its name.

 ...ia - Often refers to a significant person, like a doctor or fellow horticulturist, for instance. Examples of this are; Tradescantia (John Tradescant), Begonia (Michel Bégon) or Dieffenbachia (Joseph Dieffenbach).

...ensis - Named after a location; sometimes its place of origin. Examples are Hedera canariensis (Canary Islands) or Davallia fejeensis (Fiji).

...opsis or ...oides - Often refers to another species or genus due to similar traits. Examples are Gardenia jasminoides (flower scents) or the genus, Haworthiopsis, which was penned after Haworthia was split in the 2010s.

Some specimens are named after their growth habits, usually described in Ancient Greek or Latin. An example of this is Epiphyllum, that originates from the Greek words (epi & phýllon, meaning 'upon the leaf'), about its epiphytic nature.


N. B. - If you'd like to learn more about the history of each genus, click on the appropriate hyperlink and scroll down to 'Origins' once it loads!




1720s


1730s

  • Pelargonium - Charles L'Héritier


1750s

Carl Linnaeus is considered to be the 'Father of Modern Taxonomy, due to his extensive classification of species, genera and families. He also penned the 'Binomial Nomenclature' system, whereby a species would have a two-factor name for classification - an example of this would be Monstera delicious or Pilea peperomioides. Scrolling through the 1750s will make you realise the extent of his works, especially compared to the following decades and centuries.



1760s


1770s


1780s


1790s


1800s


1810s


1820s


1830s


1840s


1850s


1860s


1870s


1880s

  • Ctentanthe  - August W. Eichler 
  • Hypoestes phyllostachya - John Baker
  • Paphiopedilum  (Slipper Orchids) - Ernst Pfitzer


1890s


1900s

  • Howea  (Kentia Palms) - Odoardo Beccari
  • Sansevieria trifisciata  (Mother-in-Law's Tongue or Snake Plant) (Transferred to Dracaena in late 2010s by Mabberley) - David Prain


1910s


1920s


1930s


1960s


1990s

  • Orchid Cacti - Wilhelm Barthlott  (Adrian Haworth, 1829)
  • Curio rowleyanus - Paul V. Heath  (formally under Senecio, Hermann Jacobsen, 1960s)



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