Plants With Sexual Names

On a recent visit to my parents’ house, I was admiring a lovely tree in their yard. It had colorful blossoms, many of which had fallen to the ground below. Curious to know more about the local flora, I asked my dad about it. It went something like this:

“What kind of tree is that, Dad?”

“It’s a rainbow showers tree.”

“Huhuh. Really?”

“Yes. (sigh) Is that a sex thing?”

OK – I though he was making it up. But sure enough, those trees really do share their name with a notable sexual fetish. I’ve generally heard the term used describe erotic vomiting, but according to urban dictionary, “rainbow showers” (the fetish, not the tree) refers to erotic activity involving a group of people urinating on a single person. Either way, I was rather amused at these pretty trees with the kinky name.

A little internet research informed me that Latin names can be rather sexual too. The Butterfly Pea’s scientific name, Clitoria ternatea, stems from the fact that the plant is shaped like a vulva, complete with clitoral hood. Talk about genitals in the wild! Apparently because of its genital-like appearance, Clitoria ternatea has historically been used as an aphrodisiac, infertility treatment, and treatment for gonorrhea.

For a whole list of euphemistic plant terminology, check out this post on #DirtyGardenLingo.

Image of Clitoria ternatea by wikimedia commons user “Sreejith rs.”

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About Kate McCombs

Kate McCombs

Kate McCombs, MPH is a NYC-based sex educator + blogger. She's the founder of Sex Geekdom, a global community for sex educators, researchers, and other folks who love having geeky conversations about sex.