Q: I am in college working toward a major in horticulture. In my woody ornamental identification class I have encountered many strange scientific names. I’m curious what the word “attenuata” means, as in the name ^Ilex attenuata^ ‘Fosteri’. Do you have an online reference I can use to help me with scientific names?
A: My hazy memory of high school Latin tells me that ^attenuata^ means “shortened” or something like that. Dirr’s Manual of Woody Plants (Stipes Publishing, $50) defines it as follows: “Attenuata: Showing a long, slender taper.”