World-builders know that one of the hardest parts of creating a unique society is coming up with names that sound like they belong. For Eliza, the Qataeba names were some of the most fun and educational part of writing the books. Eliza spent months visiting botanical gardens, nurseries and home improvement stores just collecting names. Each member of the Qataeba clans has a plant name entirely decided by the sound. There is no gender assigned to a plant name. One could actually call a male child "Daisy" though time has made certain traditions, and flowers are generally relegated to females while trees are generally males. That isn't an absolute though. The character Yarrow is definitely male.
Qataeba don't have sir names. They instead are referred to as being of whichever clan they reside in. This means that there can only be one living Saffron or Cypress in a clan at a time. Names tend to get recirculated to honor lost loved ones. Readers will quickly discover that Dahlia was the name of Thorn, Saffron and Camellia's mother, as well as being the name of Camellia's daughter. Once a person passes away, their name is again available.
Sometimes, picking a name meant getting over certain prejudices and really listening to the sounds in the name. Eliza grew up with girls named Cedar and Sage, and there is a popular song with Saffron mentioned as a girl's name. All are used as male names in the world of Thobel. Yarrow is a beautiful flower, but it is also a medicinal plant. To Eliza, this name sounded male and became the moniker of one of the most traditionally masculine males in the series.
Thorn and Fern were two of the hardest names to justify, though they popped into Eliza's head without much study. These are both very generic, and we generally don't have just one plant in mind when we refer to either a fern or a thorn. Ultimately it was decided that Thorn is actually Hawthorn, but no one ever calls him by his full name. It was also decided that Fern refers to a Boston Fern, which simply couldn't be called that in a world that doesn't have a city called Boston. In the world of Thobel when cannon refers to simply a fern, this is the main fern, allowing Verbena's younger sister her name.
One could actually call a male child "Daisy" though time has made certain traditions, and flowers are generally relegated to females while trees are often males. That isn't an absolute though. The character Yarrow is definitely male.
The only true elder in the clan, Hickory is a strong fighter and positive father figure. His namesake is the Hickory Tree.
Eliza loved that notion that a character with a thorny personality could possibly have a name that matched. Don't misunderstand, there's plenty to love about Thorn. He's a kindhearted person at his core and he's a great big brother. He's also a pretty fine archer. He just doesn't do warm and fuzzy.
Yarrow is a terrific swordsman. He also might be one of the most patient men in the series. It makes sense that something used to relieve fever might be the namesake plant for this warm character.
If you're a chef, you know that saffron is worth more than gold. As a character, Saffron is probably worth his weight in gold as well. It's up to you to decide if he's named after the flowers or the herb.
Birch is a tracker, hunter and an all-around sweet guy. He's about as loyal as they come and always supports Marigold. There are many kinds of birch tree, but this is the plant that is his namesake.
Verbena is a healer and an overall wonderful girl. Interestingly, the plant that is her namesake is also known for its many uses in healing. This may not be coincidence since Eliza has known this information all her life. However, she actually wasn't thinking about it when she picked the name.
Marigold is a gentle character, sister to Yarrow and Spruce and caretaker for many of the younger members of the clan. Her namesake plant is a lovely flower which is beneficial to gardens.
Pepper is a carpenter and a gentle guy who is far stronger than people give him credit for. The term pepper could come from a number of places -- the pepper tree, a spicy food item that people burn their mouths on, or a mild topping for pizza. In this case, the pepper tree was the inspiration.
Cypress is probably the most intelligent character in the series. He's tall and thin, so in a way, he looks like his name sake tree. Again, there are plenty of different cypress trees, but Eliza always thinks of this one when she refers to a Cypress.
Iris is supposed to be a gorgeous girl. She certainly has the right namesake flower. Irises are one of the most lovely flowers in the world -- at least plenty of classic artists thought so.
Aloe is a unique character, but the plant that is his namesake really isn't that unique. There are probably 10,000 types of aloe, but this is the one that inspired the character. Eliza's mom grows these all over her kitchen.
Jonquil is one of those rare males solidly named for a flower. Eliza says jonquils just sound masculine to her, even if they are gorgeous.
Juniper is a musician and fun-loving character. His namesake is an evergreen tree.
Cinnamon is a healer and musician. She's also pretty shy. And her namesake plant doesn't necessarily match her much. In her case, Eliza wasn't thinking of the namesake spice, but rather it's origin, which happens to be a tree.
Verbena's younger sister is another character whose name seems fairly generic. There are thousands of ferns, but many are named after places on Earth, which couldn't happen on Thobel. Also, Fern is a pretty common name here on Earth for women. Nevertheless, Eliza had a namesake plant in mind.
Cotton is a unique character who manages to move very gracefully despite having only one leg. If you're wondering if he's named after the plant used to make cloth, you're absolutely right.
Poplar trees are some of the most handsome trees around. Interestingly, Eliza had a poplar tree in her yard growing up. Her parents always called it a silver maple, so she didn't know it's actual type until she was grown. Of course, she had to name a character for that tree.
Spruce is an interesting character that turns up in the middle of "Something Special." His namesake is the tree that Eliza always thinks of when anyone says "Christmas tree".
Violet is one of the younger members of Forest Fox and, again, her name is one regularly used for girls here on Earth. But her namesake plant is such a pretty one, Eliza never thought twice about using it. Eliza's grandmother grew violets in her window and they have always been one of Eliza's favorite flowers.
Citron is a boy in Forest Fox. His namesake is actually the fruit that was the progenitor for oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes.
Rose was an infant when her original clan was mostly killed. Her mother disappeared. However, Hickory named her after her great-grandmother. Rose is another name regularly used for females on Earth. But Eliza loves roses. She couldn't resist.
Lilacs actually hold a special place in Eliza's heart. These beautiful flowers mark spring in Wyoming and were in bloom when Eliza was born. Her mother told her the nurses put lilacs in her thick curls while she was still in the maternity ward. Growing up, they were a special favorite, so naturally, Lilac had to become a name among the Qataeba.
There are probably thousands of types of ivy. Given that this is another name regularly used by people here on Earth, you can decide for yourself if that made Eliza think of the name as female. The character is a little girl, who, like Rose, was an infant when her family was lost.
Oleander is a boy in Forest Fox. Although we tend to think of his namesake plant as a flower, it is a shrub that almost seems like a tree if you let it get old enough. Oleanders are poisonous, but don't let that fool you into thinking Oleander is a mean child. He's actually a sweetheart.