Pronunciation of species names

In this page, we're going to be dealing with names which are Latin adjectives.  I've got my own crotchety pronunciation of douglasii, for instance; you don't need to hear that rant.  They should never have allowed species to be named after people.

But most species have Latin-adjective names, and we can all pronounce them correctly.

To start with, the stress in Latin words is completely predictable.  Predictable, that is, if you have a Latin dictionary, so that you know whether a particular vowel is short or long.

Short?!!?  Long?!!?  What's this short/long nonsense?  After all, we speak this completely logical, predictable, phonetic language called English, right?????

Um, maybe we better clam up and listen to this long/short business for a few minutes, okay?

Stress in Latin words is very simple.


Long and Short Vowels

Okay, to know whether a vowel is long or short, you need a Latin dictionary.  However, I refer you to a rulebook for your own native language.  Clear and logical and intuitive, is it?

I thought so.  So let's get on with Latin.  Here's a table of Sinningia/Paliavana/Vanhouttea species pronunciations, with references to the rules that dictate which syllable received the stress.

Before we start, we can formulate some mostly-reliable guidelines about when a vowel is long or not (the only uncertainty in the above rules).


  1. If the next-to-last vowel is -a-, it is almost always long, so (4a) applies.  This includes endings
  2. If the next-to-last vowel is -o-, it is almost always long, so (4a) applies.  This includes endings but not -cola, where the -o- is short (ruPICola).
  3. If the next-to-last vowel is -u-,
  4. If the next-to-last vowel is -e- or -i-, it is short.  This includes the ending -ilis (GRAcilis).

This being language, an activity of human beings, there are exceptions, but they will be noted.

Name Pronunciation Meaning Reference
aghensis aGHENsis from AGH Rule #3
aggregata aggreGAta combined, collected Guideline #1
allagophylla allagoFILLa having different kinds of leaves Rule #3
amambayensis amambayENsis from amambaya Rule #3
araneosa araneOsa spider-web-like Guideline #2
arenicola arenICKola growing in sand Guideline #2
barbata barBAta bearded (and by extension, old-timer) Guideline #1
brasiliensis braziliENsis from Brazil, wherever that is Rule #3
bulbosa bulbOsa having bulbs Guideline #2
calcarata kalkaRAta spurred, heeled Guideline #1
calcaria kalKAria rock-related Rule #2
canescens kaNESSens growing white Rule #3
carangolensis karangoLENsis from Carangola (a city in Brazil) Rule #3
cardinalis kardiNAlis [original meaning] essential, hence [from the color of the cardinal bishops' robes] red Guideline #1
cochlearis kokleAris snail-like from Latin cochlea (snail) Guideline #1
concinna konSINna symmetrical, elegant Rule #3
conspicua konSPIkua conspicuous Rule #2
curtiflora kurtiFLOra short flower Guideline #2
defoliata defoliAta leafless Guideline #1
elatior eLAtior exalted Rule #2
eumorpha yuMORfa well-formed Rule #3
gigantifolia jiganti (or giganti-)FOLia huge-leaved Rule #2
glazioviana glazioviAna to do with Glaziou Guideline #1
gracilis GRAcilis slender, simple Guideline #4
guttata gutTAta spotted Guideline #1
hirsuta hirSUta hairy Guideline #3
incarnata inkarNAta [literally] made flesh (who knows what the namer had in mind) Guideline #1
insularis insuLAris of island Guideline #1
lanata laNAta woolly Guideline #1
leucotricha lukoTREEka white hair Rule #3
lineata lineAta lined Guideline #1
macrophylla makroFILLa big leaf Rule #3
macropoda makroPOda big foot Guideline #2
macrostachya makroSTAkya big stem Rule #2
mauroana mauroAna mauro's Guideline #1
micans MIcans sparkling Rule #1
nivalis niVAlis snowy, wintry Guideline #1
nordestina see discussion northeast see discussion
pendula PENdula hanging (pendant) Guideline #3
piresiana piresiAna [Named after Pires somebody, maybe?] Guideline #1
prasinata prasiNAta greenish Guideline #1
pusilla puSILLa petty, puny (cf. pusillanimous = puny-spirited) Rule #2
rupicola ruPICKola growing on cliffs Guideline #2
sceptrum SEPtrum sceptre, authority Rule #1
speciosa speciOsa handsome Guideline #2
striata striAta streaked, scalloped Guideline #1
sulcata sulKAta furrowed Guideline #1
tenuiflora tenuiFLOra thin-flowered Guideline #2
tuberosa tuberOsa having tubers Guideline #2
tubiflora tubiFLOra tube-flower Guideline #2
valsuganensis valsugaNENsis from Valsuga (?) Rule #3
villosa villOsa hairy, shaggy Guideline #2


nordestina is an invented word, meaning "northeast", referring to the region of Brazil ("Nordeste") where this species is found.  Guideline #4 would suggest the pronunciation norDEStina.

On the other hand, Guideline #4 is just that, a guideline.  As can be seen from Rules 4a and 4b, it all depends on whether the i in nordestina is long or short.  Guideline #4 says that it is usually short.

In such cases, the usual procedure is to look for a similar Latin word, so that one can reason by analogy.  If "morbestina" were a Latin word and the i were short so that the word was pronounced morBEStina, then we'd have grounds for assuming that it was short in nordestina as well.  If the i were long so that it was morbesTEEna, then we'd guess that nordestina acted the same way.

I could not think of such a word, however, so the whole issue went on the back burner.  I kept on pronouncing it norDEStina.

Finally, a little rhyming light went on.  The word clandestine in English means secret or stealthy.  It sure sounds like it has a Latin origin.  If clandestina were a Latin adjective, its pronunciation would give us a clue.  Since the English word is pronounced clanDEStin, it was a good bet that the Latin word had the stress in the same place.

Putting my money on the short i, I pulled out my handy Latin dictionary.

And there it was:


The i was long.

So I have switched to nordesTEEna.  Taking me a little while to get used to it, though.

It also helps to know that Alain Chautems, who invented the word, pronounces it nordesTEEna.