I recently heard that Mike Dirr has come out with the next edition of his book on woody landscape plants. Dr. Dirr (I can’t seem to bring myself to call him Mike, even after all these years) was my major advisor in graduate school, so I’m really looking forward to getting it. In the meantime I heard that he included a section on my thoughts about how to spell the scientific name of the butterflybush, a plant that I worked on to get my Ph.D.. Some people spell it Buddleia, but most go with the Buddleja spelling — but it looks really silly. So, while I’m not sure exactly what Dr. Dirr wrote, I thought I’d give you my two cents worth.
By the way, any of you out there yelling and screaming that I shouldn’t be promoting an invasive weed should be ashamed of yourselves. I spent years working on this plant and I refuse to believe that all of my work was for naught!
But back to the name. First of all you need to understand that the Butterflybush was originally named for a botanist named Adam Buddle. Buddle didn’t discover this plant. Nor was he directly involved with its naming, being an expert on mosses. Besides, he wasn’t even around when Butterflybushes were discovered by the western world around 1730 (Buddle died in 1715).
Buddleja was first mentioned in Species Plantarum, a book by Linnaeus. And, when it was listed there, it did have that j in it. OK, so far it makes sense to spell the name Buddleja. BUT, in his later works, though this plant was spelled Buddleja in the text of the book (at that time stylized print settings meant that i’s were printed as j’s u’s as v’s as s’s as f’s), in the index – where the stylized text wasn’t used – Buddleia was spelled with an i. Hence I submit to you that Buddleia should be spelled with an i – though I’m not nearly as fanatical about it as I once was.