Plant Names in Old and Middle English: Problems and Trends in Taxonomy
Botanical classification throughout the Middle Ages suffered from apocryphal sources and inconsistent terminology. Different texts mixed names and plants, borrowing from different languages to form an excessive range of unrelated synonyms. Most confusingly, however, they would source uncritically from Classical texts; Medieval scribes not only translated some of the ancients' own errors, but in some cases even aggravated them. As a result, the best methods for understanding the nature of plant names in Old and Middle English comes not from taxonomical research, but linguistic research.