Mabberley's plant-book : a portable dictionary of plants, their classification and uses
Timber Press dictionary of plant names
People interested in history have heard of the war between the houses of York and Lancaster for the throne of England known as the War of the Roses (1455-85), but how many people know that the actual white and red roses used as a symbol by both sides in the contest was the Damascus Rose, rosa damascena versicolor (variously colored rose) You can learn this fact and many other interesting ones in these two dictionaries, including the fact that English mustard was first ground to a wettable dust by a Mrs. Clements in 1720 and later industrialized by Jeremiah Colman (Colman’s mustard is still in stores). Both books are found in the library’s reference section.
The entries in Mabberley’s dictionary refer the user from the popular name to the genera of the plant which contains more specific information on the plant and its uses. For instance, the entry on bamboo states that the name can refer to dozens of different genera of grasses used for many things including; pipes, walking sticks, paper, flooring, window coverings and baskets. The “How to use this book” section explains how the entries in the book were put together and explains some of the terms used in the entries. A full list of the many abbreviations and symbols used in the book is found at the very end.
The Timber press dictionary is shorter and also contains references from common names to Latin names, ie., a daisy is actually a Bellis perennis, classed as a perennial herb from Europe and Western Asia. It also includes information on the derivation of the name (for instance Bellis, the genera of the daisy derives from the Latin word meaning “pretty”), the pronunciation of the word (useful with such hard to pronounce genera as Euonymous and Pachysandra) and the original location of the plant. The down side to these two books is that there are no illustrations.
It is also interesting to learn that the common names of flowers may refer to one of several plants, which is why asking for “bachelor’s buttons” at the garden center may get you Achillea ptarmica, Bellis perennis (the daisy), Centaurea cyanus, or Ranunculus acris.