In the Opinion essay entitled "Racist Relics: An Ugly Blight On Our Botanical Nomenclature," the author, Melvin Hunter, finds it sad that various racially offensive plant names have slipped into the vernacular of gardening. I find it even sadder that, with all the truly significant problems facing minorities in America, anyone considers the eradication of such names as a matter of anything but the lowest priority.

To the best of my knowledge, neither a black nor a Native American child has had the course of his or her life significantly altered by an improperly named houseplant. The same cannot be said, however, of various real problems-- gangs, drugs, poverty, violence, and unemployment. As I see it, the activities of Hunter and those like him fall into the category of "How to `fight racism' without leaving the comfort of your chair." This, I feel, might have been a more appropriate title...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?