Plants called Dog, Plants Named after Dogs – Interesting Tales from Your Garden

Sharpe - border collie -frosty grass


Plants called Dog, plants named after Dogs – subtitled interesting tales from your garden; or should that be tails?


Initially sparked by my Border Collie, Sharpe, achieving his 13th birthday, this blog became something of a fascinating study.


What was the reason for so many plants to be called dog in their common name as a ‘bad thing’, a warning? The clue wasn’t necessarily in the Botanical, Latin name. So I wandered off into etymology.

And then I found lots of interesting plants worldwide that have dog in their common name for different reasons. Too much to include here, and some of the plants are worth a blog of their own.

pool, dog statues, dogs trust garden, show garden, RHS Hampton Court Flower Show 2016

It would seem, from various sources, that ‘dog’ can be used to describe something false, untrue, not what it seems, bad, impure. Which seems a bit harsh for an animal so long domesticated and living with humans as the dog! Be that as it may, it isn’t true of all plants called dog. Some are positive, with the plants smelling sweet and of edible value.

More interestingly from the botanical perspective is that came across fewer instances of ‘dog’ being used within the Linnaean name than within the common name. this may have been the Latin word for dog – canis; or the Greek – cyno.

The Linnaean name is the binomial name which specifies or defines the plant regardless of the country or native language.


Plants called Dog – a List

Not necessarily a definitive list, but fairly comprehensive. Do tell me of more that you may know of, whether the Botanical name or the common name. I’ve listed these under common name, giving the Latin name below, also any other common names. The list also highlights the importance of using the botanical name to avoid confusion.


Dog bane, dogsbane

Dioscorides AD65 in a medical text mentions dogbane in relation to the sap, which was sometimes used to treat heart problems.

#1 – Amsonia tabernaemontana, blue dogbane
#2 – Apocynum androsaemifolium, American dogsbane
#3 – Apocynum cannabinum, hemp dogbane, Indian hemp, used to make fibres
#4 – Apocynum venetum, venetian dogbane, used in Chinese medicine
#5 – Plectranthus ornatus, said to be useful in repelling dogs from an area


Dog cactus
Opuntia schottii Engelm, dog cholla, Clavellina


Dog fennel

#1 – Anthemis, Marguerite
#2 – Eupatorium capillifolium


Dog flower

Antirrhinum majus, snapdragon


Dog grass

Agropyron repens, Baldwins couch grass


Dog rose

Rosa canina, bird rose, sweet briar

Rosa canina, dog rose, native species, scented pink flowers


Dog strangling vine

#1 Cynanchum rossicum
#2 Cynanchum louiseae


Dogs mercury

Mercurialis perennis


Dogs tooth grass

Cynodon dactylon


Dogs tooth violet

Erythronium, the name refers to the shape of the bulb. For example,

#1 – Erythronium dens-canis
#2 – Erythronium tuolumnense pagoda

erythronium pagoda, erythronium tuolumnense, dogs tooth violet, woodland flower, spring flowering bulb


Dog tooth pea

Lathyrus sativus

Dog violet

Viola riviniana, Viola canina, common dog violet. So-called to distinguish it from the secented Viola oderata

dog violets, viola canina, Viola riviniana



All the cornus may be called dogwood, for example

#1 Cornus sanguinea
#2 Cornus alba
#3 Cornus kousa, handkerchief tree

mixed cornus - dogwood - by moat -Eltham palace


Wet dog plant

Illicium floridanum, flowers are supposed to smell like wet dog!


Plants called Dog – and the Plews Team

Sharpe, as many of you will know, is an important member of the Plews Team. Well known for his expertise in checking the health of plants at trade nurseries and whether Plews Garden Landscaping have correctly put up new fencing.

But some of you will also remember his predecessor, Eowyn, a beautiful, even tempered German Shepherd. She was very fond of edible gardens and had a skill for nipping peas off the plant and eating them that I haven’t seen in another dog!

Eowyn in the garden, Alsation dog, flower border, german shepherd dog

For dog friendly gardens, a garden filled with plants called dog, or even a dog free zone, why not get in touch for Garden Design or Garden Advice?


Related blogs you may enjoy

Dog Friendly Gardens
Cat Friendly Gardens
Pets in your Garden – Questions and Answers
Garden Visits – Kitchen Gardens
Wild about Gardens – Design Ideas for Humans and Wildlife

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garden designer, gardening writer, gardening teacher, garden advisor

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