Oporanthous, its etymology; was Re: Late summer bulbs (was Oporanthous bulbs)

Jim McKenney jamesamckenney@verizon.net
Sat, 20 Aug 2016 13:07:53 PDT
Yes, plain English is almost always better than something most people won't understand. 
Let me make oporanthous a little easier to understand. I've been using it since 2007. 
It's derived from the Classical Greek word ὀπώρα. If your screen does not print Greek characters, the conventional transliteration of that word would be opōra. In modern Greek it means fruit.Here's the translation given in Liddell & Scott, the standard Classical Greek-English lexicon: 

“ὀπώρα…the part of the year between the rising of Sirius and of Arcturus (i.e. the last days of July, all Aug., and part of Sept.), the latter part of summer;…”

Sirius is sometimes called the dog star, thus our expression "the dog days of summer". And to me, although that's plainer and more poetic English than "late summer",  I suspect that most people don't really know why the dog days are so called. It's apparently still Greek to most people! 
In my climate, this word oporanthous exactly describes the season of Lycoris, Sternbergia, many Colchicum - all bulbs often mistakenly described as autumnal.  There are certainly Colchicum which are not oporanthous - members of that genus bloom from late summer until late winter. And there are Sternbergia which bloom in late winter, and the occasional Lycoris blooms in true autumn. But the word oporanthous is useful for calling attention to bulb activity in late summer, to call attention to the fact that it is something which happens predictably at about the same time each year and well before the onset of autumn in late September. 
There is another important bulb season which does not have a familiar name in English: the late winter days when snowdrops, crocuses, winter aconites, reticulate irises and so many other important bulbs bloom. Karl Foerster, in one of his early works ( Vom Blütengartender Zukunft, 1922) uses the German word Vorfrühling for this period. That translates literally as "pre-spring". I'm sure Vorfrühling falls more gently on the ears of German speakers than "pre-spring" does on the ears of English speakers. When I'm talking to myself, so-to-speak, I use Vorfrühling.  Someone needs to come up with a more felicitous translation for those of us who speak English. 
JimMcKenneyMontgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where the dogs are panting hard! 
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