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Origins and Meaning of the name

An outline of some past and present deliberations

There is evidence of 'Plant like' names in France dating at least from the 9th century though, more traditionally, the Plant surname has been considered in connection with early evidence in England where it appears to have 13th century origins.

Radulphus Plente had, in 1219, duties to the king for the burbhote of Oxford and for reparations to the king's household (apparently at the royal palace of Woodstock). The spelling Plante occurs by 1262 and, by c1275, the names Plantin and Pl(a/e)nte coexist in Norfolk.

An 1890 book dealt with the spellings Plante and Plente together. The MED (Middle English Dictionary) lists plente and plante as variant spellings of plaunt. The following gloss introduces views and evidence about the meaning of this name.

1. Such evidence as that above for Radulphus Plente leads to Old Postulate 1 that Plant means a 'royalist auxiliary'. The early distribution of Pl(a/e)nte records has shown that a few of them were in proximity to the Warren earls of Surrey who had descended from Geoffrey Plante Genest (now spelled Plantagenet) of Anjou. A much better coincidence of locations has more recently been found, however, with an illegitimate line of descent from Geoffrey's grandson, Henry II's natural son William Longspée, leading to the Longspée-Audley hypothesis. An 1860 Surname Dictionary and an 1862 book note that the Plant name is supposed to be corrupted from Plantagenet. It is not unknown for servants to have adopted names from their masters.
2. Further considerations lead on to Old Postulate 2 that Plant may allude in some way to illegitimate descent (cf. the Plant Heraldry). Early occurrences of Pl(a/e)nte are found near 1254-8 records for Roger Plantyn, who was an auxiliary to a Warren-Bigod earl. The most pertinent connection for this now seems to be that Henry II's mistress, Ida de Tosny, was William Longspée's mother before she married Roger Bigod, maintaining the integrity of the Longspée-Audley feudal hypothesis for the overlords of the early Plants, and indeed also including her descent to lordship over the bye-name Plantyn. Plantyn can be considered as a possible diminutive of some other Plant-like name. Diminutives of names are sometimes said to denote illegitimate descent. A 1916 book suggested Plant had such a meaning as a young offspring. The Welsh meaning of plant is children.
Green Peeper
3. A 1916 book suggests that the name form de la Plaunt is locative and meant 'from the plantation'. This forms a basis for Old Postulate 3 though this also carries such alternative connotations as 'from the (Plantagenet) Palatine of Chester' or 'from the Plantagenet manor of la Planteland' or 'from the plant soul as the first principal of life' (rather as LeVert or de la Greene might mean 'of vigorous young growth' and DuPlan(t)e might mean 'earthly child' [i.e. minor mundis] or 'from the planted Word of creation').

To an extent, the Plant name can be compared with the surnames Children, Child(e), and Young: the Welsh meaning of plant is children. There is also a possible analogy with the fact that Welsh occurrences of the surname Lewis are sometimes said to mean 'family or followers of the Llywellyn Princes of Wales': this implies a playfulness with the Llewellyn name. The Warrens, like Llywellyn, participated in the Welsh Wars and there is evidence for a playfulness with the Warren name (e.g. the depiction of rabbit warrens on a Warren family seal). The Warrens were descendants of Geffrey Plante Genest and there may have been a similar playfulness with the Plantagenet name leading to such a Plant-like name as Plantyn


Initial DNA evidence suggests that the Plants descend largely from a single family. This does not directly confirm a traditional view that Plant is a "multi-origin" surname, as was believed in connection with the meaning gardener. Computer simulations show that the name could have had several origins and that most have died out, or grown little, in contrast to the main Plant family which has grown abnormally large. On the other hand, an early start to the name would help with explaining the abnormal size, if the main Plant family had already reached a substantial size before the fourteenth century for which there is some evidence provided that we allow some mobility between early isolated records of the name.


One contention has been that the Plants were assorted servants of the 'Plantagenet' nobility. A more ambitious version is that they were (illegitimate) Plantagenet children. However, this would demand a greater onus of genealogical or DNA 'proof' which has not (at least as yet) been forthcoming. Nineteenth-century claims to the effect that the Plants were illegitimate Plantagenet offspring can accordingly be dismissed as 'too fanciful' - further detail concerning this long-standing debate is outlined elsewhere on this website.

An alternative view [J.S.Plant (1998 onwards) in Roots and Branches] has been that there is greater consistency with other Plant-like names, DNA, and locality if the definition is changed from '[metonym] gardener, planter' to '[ontological metaphor] offshoot, offspring'. I (JSP) outlined some evidence in 2005 in Volume 28 of the scholarly journal Nomina though my investigations have been ongoing.

A more recent appraisal of the meaning

The Welsh word plant means children. The early meaning of planta (Latin) and plante (Old English) was a 'shoot for propagation'; and there is evidence, in Middle English and early English books, that some people took the 'offshoot' meaning of plante and mapped it up the Great Chain of Being to get 'offspring' for a person. In Irish and in the historic Palatine of Chester, this word had the similar meaning scion or child.

Another possibility is that the original spelling of Plant may have been Plente, meaning 'abundant' or 'fertile', and this may have been inspired partly by impolite sense to the Plante Genest nickname. Shortly afterwards, the spelling of Plente may have been sanitised to Plante or Plonte, meaning 'children'; and, still later, the Plantegenest nickname evidently became sufficiently embellished with godly sense to make it acceptable as a royal surname. I outlined this in a 2007 academic paper, including an Appendix relating to the cultural context of the Plant surname: J.S.Plant (2007) The tardy adoption of the Plantagenet surname, Nomina, Vol 30, pp. 57-84.

The modern surname Plenty, and perhaps also Plant, may have derived from Plente. So far, only one Plenty has been DNA tested and he does not belong to the same male-line family as Plant. This does not rule out, however, a possibility of some early confusion between Plente and Plante at least in regard to these names' medieval meaning.

A more godly sense to Plantagenet can be related to 'Plantagenet favoured' concepts of The Plant Soul providing collocations that relate to the implantation of seed, vertu, the Lord's creative Word, as well as the vegetable soul with its powers of growth and generation.

A local usage of plaunten around the main Plant homeland applied to the Lord's planted creation. However, such a sense is not generally favoured for the English Plant surname, not least because any understanding of Plantagenet piety is typically absent in modern popular culture which often places more emphasis on battles and secular conquests. There is perhaps more to support a sense of politico-religious foundation for Planta and some Plant-like names in the Alps.

It is possible that there could have been some cultural influence from the Plante Genest nickname in England but there is no evidence that the Plants were genetically related to the Plantagenets. It is possible that the English Plants began with an 'abundant' or 'fertile' meaning to their name, with the spelling Plente, and that this had been influenced by a 'hairy shoot' meaning to Plante Genest. Though the nature of this influence may not seem obvious, a study of medieval writings reveals that there was a metaphysical connection, since the plant powers (i.e. vegetable soul) of a hairy shoot (Plantagenet) brought forth the plenty (Plente) of growth and offspring.

There are many who simply persist with the much publicised gardener interpretation, especially for one early instance of the Plant by-name near Hull. That is not remiss in itself, except that 'gardener' has often been presented as the only possible meaning even though the supposed meaning near Hull is away from the Plants' main homeland and, upon closer examination, the debatable evidence can be dismissed as purely coincidental. Certainly, the medieval word plaunt had various meanings and one can identify at least three main hypotheses, which can be supplemented with a fourth:

1. Gardener - this theory has persisted for over half a century though it does not stand up well to scrutiny;
2. Offspring - this century-old explanation is compatible with more of the evidence and assumes particular significance in the surname's main homeland, near Wales;
3. From la Planta - though the Alps are very distant from England, recently uncovered evidence reveals an early migration of a priest with the name Plante from there to the Diocese of London - furthermore, the earliest known form of the hereditary name is Planta in the Swiss Alps and an early 'de la Planta' form of the name nearer in France means 'from La Planta' with apparent traces of the subsequent development of this name form into Plant.
These three hypotheses are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Thus, the earliest evidence appears to support (3) above; and, the meanings (2) and (1) may have subsequently developed, or arisen independently, in different localities. Alternatively, a more all-embracing hypothesis is:
4. Living near the planting or breeding place - this is a variation of a century-old (but perhaps slightly misleading) contention 'from the plantation or enclosure' and it can be justified as an improved variation on 'a gardener' (whose Plant name could have been derived instead from living near a garden enclosure). As well as an Alpine la Planta there might have been other similarly based local names and, to support this, there is for example a placename Plantis in Normandy (hence perhaps the 1282 name de Plantes in England meant from Plantis in Lower Normandy). The case for this meaning is argued further below.

The meanings 1 and 2 and simplified versions of 3 and 4 are given in a 2016 Surname Dictionary.

An 1860 Surname Dictionary

Mark Antony Lower (1860) in his A Dictionary of the Family Names of the United Kingdom lists under the entry for Plant:
A family in humble circumstanches at Kettering, bear the ancient royal name of Plantagenet, though now it is commonly corrupted to Plant. See a late number of the''Leicester Mercury.''

An 1862 Book

On page 149 of his book A History of the Ancient Parish of Leek, John Sleigh (1862) records for example that an old deed from John, abbot and monk of Dieulacres, gave leave to Richard Plant of Stonycliffe to make an enclosure (clausuram) near a place called Lingrene, in the time of Henry VI. On page 33, Sleigh notes further that a deed of John Plant of Stonycliffe carried a seal that was the Virgin with Christ in her arms, in an arch. Sleigh adds the footnote to the name of John Plant 'This name is supposed to be corrupted from Plantagenet'.

An 1890 Book

On page 363 of the 1968 edition of the Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, Henry Brougham Guppy (1890) remarks:-
'The PLANTS are very numerous in the Eccleshall district (Staffordshire). The name of Plente occurred in the 13th century in Hunts and Oxfordshire. There are also now a few representatives of the name Plant in Suffolk and Shropshire.'
On page 536, he attributes 0.014% of the general population in Shropshire to the Plant name, 0.060% in Staffordshire and 0.016% in Suffolk.

A 1912 Surname Dictionary

In Surnames of the United Kingdom, Henry Harrison (1912) suggests:-

Anglo-French-Latin: dweller at a Plantation or Grove [French plant; Latin planta, a twig, graft] Du Plant (Duplant) is not an uncommon French name.

Note. Du Plant in French can mean 'from or of the planted place'.

A 1916 Book

On page 185 of the book Surnames, Ernest Weekly (1916) remarks:-

Plant itself is generally local (i.e. of the locative type) [John de la Plaunt, of Rouen, Pat.R.], from OF. plante, enclosure, plantation, but its occurrence in the Rolls without de [Robert Plante, Hund.R.] suggests that it was also a nickname, from ME. plant used in a variety of senses, sprig, cudgel, young offspring (see NED.).

On page 268, he adds:-

Planterose [John Planterose, Hund. R.] and Pluckrose [Alan Pluckrose, ib] still exist and have plenty of medieval support; cf. Simon Schakerose (Pat.R.), Peter Porterose (ib.), Andrew Plantefene (Leic. Bor. Rec.), and Elyas Plantefolye (Fine R.). Pluckerose has a parallel in Cullpepper [Thomas Cullepeper or Colepepyr, Pat. R.] with which cf. Richard Cullebene (Hund.R.).

A 1956 Surname Dictionary

In a Dictionary of American Family Names, Elsdon Coles Smith suggests:-

English: dweller at the place where bushes and young trees were started for transplanting.

Note. This opinion might have derived from the different Middle English bynames Plantebene, Planterose and perhaps also Plantefolie with the last confusing folie with feuille (a leaf, perhaps one grafted into a stock plant with a strong stem). On the other hand, however, the spelling of its several occurrences is consistently Plantefolie or Plantefolye giving the more direct meaning, in Middle English, an instiller of wickedness or foolishness (cf. a jester).

A 1958 Surname Dictionary

On page 276 of the 1976 edition of A Dictionary of British Surnames, P.H.Reaney (1958) lists:-

Plant, Plante:
William Plante 1262 For (Ess), 1279 RH (C); William Plauntes 1275 RH (Nf). Metonymic for a gardener or planter of various plants. cf. Henry le Plaunter 1281 Rams (Hu), Ralph Plantebene 1199 P (Nf) 'beans' and PLANTEROSE.
Robert, Alice Planterose 1221 AssWa, 1272 RamsCt (C). 'Rose-grower.'

A comment on a 2011 book

On page 30 of the book Surnames, DNA, & Family History by George Redmonds, Turi King, and David Hey, George Redmonds writes:-

One further aspect of by-names that has received little attention is the direct link between occupations and nicknames. ... but occasionally the context supports the inference. For example, Reaney's explanation of Plant as a by-name for a gardener received little support from John Plant in his recent article [Plant J.S., 2005. Modern Methods and a Controversial Surname Nomina 28: 115-33] on the surname and yet 'William Plant, gardiner' was a Hull taxpayer in 1379.
It is relevant to add, however, that the main appeal of the gardener meaning, for Plant, relies quite heavily on two psychological biases, by which we are all too easily misled when considering the relative merits of various possibilities. First, there is the so-called "availability bias" of envisaging plants only in modern gardens, even though the medieaval meanings of the word plant are various and different. Secondly, there is the so-called "confirmation bias" of seeking out and citing only one isolated example of an early Plant man who was a gardener, even though all other known early occupations of the early Plants are different such that they disconfirm this particular meaning.

To consider further how to avoid invalid reasoning, we can note three subtle ways by which science is misrepresented: first, oversimplifying a concept and getting it wrong; secondly, cherry-picking a fact and ignoring the bigger picture; and, thirdly, ignoring more recent data and findings. We can acquit this 2011 Surname book of still bigger howlers, often employed in political persuasion, which can plummet through ever lower levels amounting to: "if this isn't enough wrongness for you, it gets worse" [Physicsworld, (June 2017) Vol 30(6), pp 40-41]. In favouring only gardener as a simple possibility, this 2011 book passes muster on the first test, apart from omitting mention of contemporary beliefs concerning the medieval vegetative soul. In connection with the second mistake, of cherry-picking and ignoring the bigger picture, Surname Dictionaries and Surveys in general have one particular take - they typically devote just a few minutes consideration to each individual surname, ignoring the bigger picture for the surname itself, while seeking generalisations throughout all supposed English surnames. The third mistake of not keeping up with the latest findings can arise especially for a populous surname, such as Plant, since there is a considerable amount of new medieval evidence that has increasingly come to light in recent years, along with new insights from DNA testing. In summary, much time and effort is needed to avoid the second and third and as well, in detail, the first of the above-mentioned mistakes such that quick surveys of all surnames can fall short of an adequate understanding of the most problematic names.

For the purpose of a fuller consideration of the Plant name, it is important to note that the gardener assumption considers only one selected hypothesis and only one selected early occupation that has been found for just one instance of the by-name. This isolated instance is quite distant from the Plants' main homeland. There are other records for Plant by-names, some earlier, and these do not support the gardener hypothesis, such as:

merchant (Geoffrey Plaunt in 1273); once bailiff of Marsfelde (Robert Plonte in c.1280); priest (Henry Plante in 1350); draperie (Will. Plante in 1376); agricole (Johannes Plante in 1381); and, chaplain (William Plonte in 1386).
Arguing that they all might be compatible with the 'gardener' hypothesis is not enough - as a counter argument, they are all of course compatible with the 'offspring' hypothesis for example. Moreover, there are earlier 'de la Planta' forms of the name, with diminishing traces of the locative prefix de la in the name's subsequent development into Plant; this favours a meaning based on the location of a 'planted place'. While a gardener needs to be near a 'planting place', it is unsurprising that one of several near a 'planted place' is a gardener. As well as cherry-picking one occupation from several in highlighting a gardener, one could simply dismiss this occupation of adding little extra if we are to assume that the Plant name's meaning is locational for a person living near a 'planted planted' place.

A more comprehensive view is that the name might have originally meant 'from the Planta' region of the Alps or some other similarly named location. This is supported by the 1350 record for a London priest, who was from Risole, evidently Risoul in the French Alps. The name then might have morphed or arisen independently for a gardener near Hull and to mean clan or children near Wales and/or to have a different locative origin in the main Plant homeland.

The meaning 'gardener' does not appear in any language dictionary for the word plant. On the other hand, the industrial meaning of the word for a location of factory equipment appears in the Oxford English Dictionary though it offers no evidence for this meaning before the eighteenth century. A 'planting or breeding' place is consistent with some contemporary philosophy in which the Arostotelian powers of man's and animals' vegetable souls were believed to be the nutritive, augmentative and generative. We also have for example that plante means a 'bed or planting place' in French, to plant can mean 'to procreate' in archaic English, and planta means 'to procreate or breed' in Welsh along with plant meaning offspring or 'children'. To this, we can add that the first known location in the main Plant homeland is in 1373, for Thomas Plontt who had failed to pay a fine at the Black Prince's vaccary (cattle station); this is a place where all of these plant soul powers (feed, growth and breeding) would have been in evidence such that one might imagine that this could have been a forerunner of the meaning for an industrious place associated with generating a product. Or, more simply, we can consider what we might now consider to be the meaning of a 'planted place', such as an orchard or a noteworthy garden, if that is not too close to favouring the most apparent modern meanings over such notions as a blessed place for a family's growth and the pastoral generation of offspring.

A 2016 Surname Dictionary

Though The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland cites me (JSP) as the source of information for the meaning plant 1, this Dictionary appears to lean particularly towards the meaning 'gardener' which, to my mind, is not adequately justified as being uppermost. This 2016 Dictionary follows Reaney's 1958 Surname Dictionary and associates Plant especially with two quite different names - Plantebene and Planterose - in different parts of England, away from the main Plant homeland.

In the early times of the Plants in their most populous homeland, the common MAN IS PLANT metaphor is in evidence [for a foetus or heir] with local literature including such a meaning as a young man in training (cf. the training of a climbing plant, up and around its support). A little further away, in nearby Welsh, plant means 'children' though, with a spreading plant, it is difficult to identify individuals, as accords with the word 'offspring' which can refer to one or several children. Because of the plural in Welsh, it has been suggested that Plant means a branch of a family, ignoring that the meaning is singular in the Plants' main homeland. That said, rightly or wrongly, this 2016 Dictionary chooses to consider most especially the evidence of two selected distant by-names (Plantebene and Planterose) in preference over other equally-similar by-names and the contemporary local literature.

As a further point, we may note that plant 2 and plante 1 are both compatible with the Longspée-Audley hypothesis of these feudal lords having ascribed the Plant name to their peasants. This indicates an early start to the main Plant family which would increase the chances of this Plant family's having grown to its abnormally large size, with the possibility also of this nobility's having brought a French meaning into England.

Some more liberally extended views of such names' possible meanings

Reference: Dr John S. Plant (2001) Roots and Branches, Issue Number 21, etc.

For the gardener hypothesis, Reaney used a partial argument, basing it on just a couple of selected 'Plant like' names. Based carefully on the medieval name and linguistic evidence, a fuller set of possible interpretations is as follows:-
Plant(a/e)genet de facto establisher lord, or a horse borne establisher, or (from the) plant-horse genera, or perhaps an implanter of ingenuity, or more usually the meaning is said to be 'sprig of broom', which is a hairy shoot
Plantebene hallowed establisher offshoot, or a pleasant establisher child, or a favour of the plant soul, or a petitioner of prayer to the Virgin Mary, or an implanter of little or nothing, or an implanter of (human or animal) seed, or a gardener (it may literally mean plant-well)
Plantefolie wickedness offshoot, or foolishness or sinfulness (bastard) child, or an implanter of contrition of crime, or an implanter of wickedness (illegitimacy), or perhaps a foot fuller or a foal borne establisher, or perhaps a tree-shoot planter, or a foal breeder
Plente abundant or generous or fertile, or Nature's plenty, or an imparter of plenarty of the plant soul, or a variant spelling of Plante or Palente
Palente from the palace or palatine with associated rights
Planterose courtly establisher child, or an implanter of pride or praise, or an infuser of the virtue of the Virgin Mary, or a surveyor, or an establisher of land rights or order, or a gardener, or an aroused shoot, or a resurrected or ascended or elevated or augmented plant soul, or an implanter of females
Plantyn or Plante Nature's child, or an implanter of the augmentative or generative powers of the plant soul, or an imparter of virtue or gallantry, or an offshoot or offspring, or the Welsh meaning plentyn (child) or plant (children), or a gardener or breeder or philanderer, or from the planting or breeding enclosure
le Plaunter establisher, or infuser, or philanderer, or planter, or breeder
de la Planta or de la Plaunt of the plant soul, or from the first principal of life, or from the shoot, or offshoot or offspring, or from the Alpine region of La Planta, or from the planting or breeding enclosure
Plantefene eager implanter, or happy child, or perhaps a shoot or spear lunger, or perhaps a planter of corn, or a happy breeder
Von Planta, Planta from the shoot, or from the first principal of life, or from the garden source of the River Inn (Engadin)

Some early 'Plant like' name records

Reference: Dr John S. Plant (1999) Roots and Branches, Issues Number 17 and 18, etc.

Early records for 'Plant like' names can be grouped into possible antecedants of the Pallant, Plenty and Plant surnames though there are, at least in principle, possible early inter-connections. For example, Palente might have been confused phonologically with Plente. More particularly, there is often paleographical ambiguity between reversed <e> and <o> so that Plente can be confused with Plonte which is the standard spelling of Plante in the early West Midlands dialect area. Apart from the Macclesfield Court Rolls, the following information is taken from transcribed records and the original rolls should ideally be re-examined with these possible ambiguities in mind. Also, there are possible indications of early developments between such name forms as de la Planta, de Plant', de la Plaunt, Plaunt, Plonte, de Plantes, Plante, and Plant.


(A few of these and some later records are shown more fully elsewhere on this website).

1202 Geffrey Plante Genest's grandson, king John, captured his nephew Arthur of Brittany at Mirebeau in the Anjou-Poitou Marches on 1st August; and, a few weeks later, Emeric de la Planta alias de Plant' was dispossessed of lands there in Chinon and Loud[un]. Normandy Rolls.
1244 Bishop Vokart (of Chur) appointed Andreas Planta von Z(ouz), the Chancellor of Upper Engadine and so confirming the hegemony of the Planta family in the Zouz (Zutz or Suoz) neighbourhood lasting until 1798. Some further details about the Swiss Planta family.
1262 Plaunte William, Essex, Forest Pleas
1273 de la Plaunt and Plaunt, 3 Rouen merchants, Patent Rolls
1275 June 29th, lease to Thomas Plonte and Helen his wife from David le Blond and wife Annabel of plot of land to build a house, 34 feet by 32 feet, and 6 a. of land at la Fortheye in vil of Bitton [South Gloucestershire] (cf. 1280 entry for Saltford, 2 miles away), Berkeley Castle Muniments, The Blount estate, BCM/E/1/1/49
1275 Plauntes William, Norfolk, Rotuli Hundrederum
1279Plante William, Cambridge, Rotuli Hundrederum
1279 At Burgh in Lincolnshire, 'assize of mort dancestor arraigned by Alan son of Hugh Plante against John son of John Plante, touching land in.' Newly transcribed Patent Rolls
c1280-1303 Robert Plonte, of Saltford, once bailif of Marsfelde [Bath BC 151/4/14, 151/4/15]
1282de Plantes Henry, appeal in Huntingdonshire, Patent Rolls
1301 Plant Richard, rights to coal, Ewelowe near Chester, Flint [Pipe Rolls Cheshire in LCRS 92, 205]
1303Johannes Plonte [S.L.Thrupp and H.B.Johnson (1964) The earliest Canterbury freeman's rolls 1298-1363 in Kent Records (Ashford, 1912-) Kent Archaeological Society 18 181]
1312 Sarah wife of John Plonte of Canterbury, sale of 4s of annual rent, Canterbury Cathedral Archives U/4/1/80
1315 April 29th, John Plonte, witness to transfer of messuage and buildings in Canterbury, Canterbury Cathedral Archives, CCA-Dcc-ChAnt/C/1080
1321 Luke Plonte of Nettlebed, Oxfordshire, Patent Rolls
1328 Thomas Plonte and Robert his son [Bath BC 151/3/55]
1329Robert Plonte son of Walter Plonte [Bath BC 151/2/46, 151/2/47]
1340 Robert son of Thomas Plonte [Bath BC 151/3/56]
1340-49Robert Plonte [Bath BC 151/2/27, 151/2/28, 151/2/48, 151/2/25, 151/6/70, 151/5/90]
1344 Plant John, son of Alan, of Burgh Marsh co. Lincoln, Patent Rolls
1349 mention of tenement of John Plonte [Bath BC 151/2/42]
1350 cottage of William Plante. Deed dated 2 Oct 1350 at Haughley in Suffolk
1350 Henry Plante of Risole, priest of the diocese of London. Clergy, the religious and the faithful in Britain and Ireland
1352 Plant James, and others carried away goods at Welles, Warham and Styvekey co. Norfolk, Patent Rolls
c1360mention of land of Walter Plonte [Bath BC 151/2/38]
1360 onwards First known Plants in main homeland, as yet 2 with the surname Plontt have been found by 1360 and at least 7 in 35 entries in the 1370s, for the Macclesfield Court Rolls of east Cheshire. Note on the Macclesfield part of the main Plant homeland. Only 2% of the Forest was assarted or approved around the Macclesfield Manor township of Rainow, where a number of Plants had arrived, by 1383. A decade earlier, another Plant had been around 8 miles to the south near the boundary with Leek parish in Staffordshire where surviving records for that early are less complete. Midway between the two was the Macclesfield Manor township called Sutton and Plants were acquiring land there too. A M Tonkinson [Macclesfield in the Later Fourteenth Century, 1999] has estimated that Ranulph Plont of Rainow was an average landholder in Macclesfield Forest around 1349-96 and, by ca.1400, perhaps it could have been the same Ranulph Plont who was a guarantor for others, including Nicholas Gardener who was in the top 12% of the Macclesfield Forest landholders. This 1349-96 mention of the name Gardener can be debated alongside mention of the term junior and, for example, John Plant could initially have meant something similar to John Junior (cf. linguistic evidence for the early meaning offspring) when such descriptors were earlier being added to forenames.
1363 Plontt Thomas indicted; then in 1365 outlawed and committed to prison pending paryment of a surety of 20s; Macclesfield Court Rolls
1373 Plontt Thomas had failed to pay the fee or fine for pasturing a bullock at the Black Prince's vaccary at Midgley, near the Macclesfield-Leek boundary and, in 1375, he was indicted; Macclesfield Court Rolls
1376 Will. Plante, draperie, Leicester Borough Archives
1376 John Plonte?, witness to quitclaim of land at Ernele, Wiltshire and Swindon Archives, 1720/175
1377 Willelmo Plant, gardiner, Myton, East Riding of Yorkshire, Poll Tax
1379 Johannes Plonte, Offchurch, Warwickshire, Poll Tax
1379 Thomas Plonte aided and abetted the beheading of John de Warton of Leek, on behalf of the Abbot of Dieulaces Abbey. On 5 May 1382, he obtained the King's Letters Patent, pardonning him of all felonies committed previous to 10 December 1381. Staffordshire Historical Collection XIV, 156-157
1381 Johannes Plante, agricole, Great Finsborough, Suffolk, Poll Tax returns
1381 wife of Walterus Plante amongst family servants at Pentlow, Essex, Poll Tax returns
1383-84 Ranulph Plont (father of John Plont snr and grandfather of William Plont and John Plont jnr), leasing land at Rainow, east Cheshire. Macclesfield Court Rolls
1386 Plonte William, chaplain (land of prior and convent of Bath), rent in Olveston, Gloucestrehire, Patent Rolls
1394 Plaint John, aged 60 years or more, witness at Lincoln to proof of age of John of Gaunt's mistress's husband's son - John Plaint had been servant to Master Thomas de Sutton, Calendar of Inquisitions
1395 John Plonte witnessed a conveyance of John de Grenley of land in Leek to Thomas Payge. R+B,2,7
1397 John and Richard Plont, sued, trespassing herds of cows at Quarford, north Staffordshire. Staffordshire Historical Collection, XV, 78-79.
1401 Richard Plont guarantor for farm of deadwood; Ranulph Plont guarantor for farm of coal in the forest of Macclesfield, Macclesfield Court Rolls
1401 witness John Plonte the Younger of Overton. Staffordshire Historical Collections 1928 41, Ancient Deeds Preserved at the Wodehouse, Wombourne 76 2/65
1406 Edward Plont gained from the Abbot of Dieulacres Abbey, near Leek in north Staffordshire, a lease for 39 years of two mess' one croft called Calwoheye de Roche Graunge. R+B,2,7
1410s John Plont jnr started acquiring lands at Rainow, Macclesfield Court Rolls (apparently he who was subsequently listed as one of 98 Knights, Gentlemen and Freeholders in Macclesfield Hundred in 1445)
1438 Richard Plant of Stonycliffe, grant from Abbot of Dieulacres for enclosure near Lymgrene (Staffs Charters, Ch 186).
1441 John Plante, archer in the expeditionary French force of Richard, Duke of York under captain John Vere, Earl of Oxford (TNA E101/53/33 m2 and TNA E101/54/9 m1) - around that time, John de Vere served as joint ambassador to France in 1439 and as Justice of the Peace in the counties of Essex, Hertford, and Cambridge
1442 John atte Halle otherwise Plant of Burgh, Lincolnshire, witness to two deeds 13 April and 7 May (Close Rolls)
1443 William Plantes, goldsmith, Norman alien at Salisbury, Wiltshire (TNA E179/387/8 Part 1, mm. 3-5, m. 4, tax assessment, 2 January 1443) identified with 1441 similar record for William ?Plentowe (E179/196/105, m.2, tax assessment, 7 September 1441) - hence perhaps from Plante family at Pentlow in Essex, as in the above 1381 record


1285 ate Palente John, Sussex, Assize Rolls
1296 de Palenta John, Sussex, Subsidy Rolls
1343 Plente John, messuage of land, vicar of the cathedral church of Chichester, Sussex, Patent Rolls


1219 Radulphus Plente (Oxon) Et in operatione castri de Oxon' infra idem castrum xxiij li. et iij s. et iiij d. per breve R. et per visum Petri de Haliwell' et Radulfi Plente. Et in reparatione domorum R. extra villam lxv s. per breve R. et per visum eorundem. [3 Henry III Pipe Rolls]
1219 William Plente (Kent) Et de dim. m. de Willelmo Plente pro panno vendito contra assisam. [3 Henry III Pipe Rolls]
1230 Simon Plente (York) Et de dim. m. de Willelmo filio Ailredi et Simone Plente pro eodem. (By reference back to the preceding records eodem equates to dissaisina.) [14 Henry III Pipe Rolls]
1230-1 Radulphus Plente [ A cartulary of the Hospitals of St John the Baptist, ed H.E.Slater (1914) in Oxford Historical Society Publications 68, 202]
1272 Symon Plente [Feet Fines Oxf. in Oxfordshire Record Society: Record Series (Oxford, 1919-) 12, 200]
1272-84William Plente (and then his widow Gerbergia) of Ormesby (Norfolk) --- charter for piece of land at Hemesby [Norwich Cathedral Charters]
1307 Robert Plente, witness of quitclaim, Exeter, Devon Record Office, 5714, M/T/4
1307-26 Matillide Plente, Bosham. [Register of Bishop Walter de Stapeldon of Exeter, concerning Clerks and Clergy of Cornwall and Devon, 1307-26, p 56]
1340 Alice Plente, tenement anf garden in Tavistock, Devon Record Office,482A/PF11 [W68/4]
1342 Plente Walter, Exeter co. Devon, Patent Rolls
1343 Plente John, messuage of land, vicar of the cathedral church of Chichester, Patent Rolls
1343 Plente John, witness at Theydene Boys on release of claim to lands in Theden Boys, Close Rolls
1345, 1346 acolite Walter Plente [Register of Bishop John de Trillek of Hereford, Clerks and Clergy of Herrefordshire, Shropshire and Gloucestershire, pp. 419, 431]
1348At Prestbury, Walter, son of William Plente of Bishop's Castle [Register of Bishop John de Trillek of Hereford, p. 399]
1349 sub-deacon Walter son of John Plente; deacon Walter Plente [Register of Bishop John de Trillek of Hereford, pp. 486, 491]
1350 presbiter Walter Plente de Castro episc., ad ti. domus de Sandone [Register of Bishop John de Trillek of Hereford, p. 543]
1361 Roger Plente, witness of Charter of Feoffment, Exeter, Devon Record Office, 51/1/2/2
1364 Plente Roger of Exeter, license to take 20 packs of large cloth of divers colours from port of Exeter to Gascony, Spain, and other parts beyond seas; and to return with wine and other merchandise to the ports of London, Suthampton, Sandwich or Exeter, Patent Rolls
1364 Plente Roger, right to be collector of customs at Exeter, Fine Rolls
1364 Plente Roger, searcher of gold and silver exported without license in the county of Devon, assault on, Patent Rolls
1365 Plente Roger, merchant of Exeter, his ship 'le Ceorge' of Exmouth, Patent Rolls
1367 Plente Roger, king's minister in Devon, Patent Rolls
1368 Plente Roger, collector of customs in port of Exeter, Patent Rolls
1372 8th November, Roger Plente, mayor of Exeter, witness to lease, Devon Record Office, 51/1/2/5a-b
1386 30th April, ground formerly belonging to Roger Plente, Exeter, Devon Record Office, 51/1/3/5
1386 Plente Reynold, rights to yearly rent had been granted by William Botreaux, knight, the elder, Inquisition at Launceston Cornwall
1394 Pleyntif Richard, Somerset, Patent Rolls


1164Geffrey Plante Genest's illegitimate son, Hamelyn, from Anjou, married Isabel de Warenne and inherited the earldom of Surrey with traditional lands in Norfolk etc. Hamelyn's offspring may have retained some cultural connection to the 'de la Planta' name from their ancestral home of Anjou, though surviving primary evidence for the early use of the Plant(a/e)genet name is sparse.
1188-99Plan' Roger de, Chester's Charters
1199Radulphus Plantebene (Norfolk) [1 John Pipe Rolls]
1200 Radulphus Planteben' (Norfolk and Suffolk) [2 John Pipe Rolls]
1209 Plantefolie Gilbert, Leic', Curia Regis
1210Plantefene Andrew, Inhabitants of Leicester (1103-1327).
1214 Planet' Susan de, Jelding' Kent, Curia Regis
1220 Plantan' William, Suff', Curia Regis
1221 Planetis Ralph de, Kent, Curia Regis
1226Plantefolie John, Somerset, Curia Regis
1230 Planterose Robert, Warr' Wigorn', Curia Regis
1254 Plantin Roger, serjent of E. of Norfolk, Close Rolls
1258Plantyn Roger, butler of E. of Norfolk, Close Rolls
1258 Plantyn Roger, lands in Norfolk, Patent Rolls
1263 Plauntefolie Maud, Weston', Close Rolls
1266Plauntegenet Galfrido, serjent at arms, Wodestock, Close Rolls
1267Ph'us filius Elye Plauntefolye, Nottingham. Fine Rolls
1268 Planteng' Roger, Guldeford' Norff', Close Rolls
1270Plantefolie Adam, Welle Fanerwal' (co. York), Close Rolls
1285 Plauntain Henry, Patent Rolls
1310 Johannes Planterose [Two Bedfordshire subsidy listings ed S.H.A.Hervey (1925) Suffolk Green Books 18 87]
1341 le Plaunter Henry, Cambridge-Huntingdon border dispute, Patent Rolls

Some Alpine context and a background of the earldom of Chester and Lincoln

It is misleading to place too much emphasis on any one isolated record for the medieval Plant name. However, the following is an attempt to outline some of the general context for some of the available records. A narrower account of a more specific context for almost all of the early Plant records, from France into England, is given by the Longspée-Audley hypothesis.

There are some indications of a French, or still earlier Alpine, context to the name. In the Swiss Alps, Zuoz was the site of the Stammhaus, or original castle of the family of Planta, who as far back as 1139, in the times of Geffrey Plante Genest (1113-51), held the Engadine in feof. An early known Plant record, in 1202, in Anjou in western France, can be related to the feuding of Arthur of Brittany and his uncle King John, grandson of Count Geffrey Plante Genest (Plantagenet) of Anjou. It is unclear whether the early Plant records in Angevin France, in 1202 and 1273, were directly related to the noble Planta family, whose hegemony in the Upper Engadine is confirmed in the 1244 record listed above. Also in the Alps, Verbier Castle was probably built in the twelfth century and belonged to the Duchy of Savoy though it was largely destroyed in the Battle of La Planta in 1475.

In England, a Savoyard influence became important in the mid thirteenth century after the 1236 marriage of King John's son, Henry III, to Eleanor of Provence whose uncle, Peter of Savoy, had been granted lands in England by 1240. Peter was appointed guardian of Warenne lands, for example, including the Manor of Boston in south Lincolnshire and the Honour of Lewes in Sussex. These two places coincide with two early instances of the Plant name in England - in 1279, the Plante name was hereditary, apparently for three generations, at Burgh near Boston; and, around 1280, a Plonte is described as 'once bailif of Marsfelde', which could have been the one near Lewes. Alpine Savoyard origins might also be associated with the 1301 record of the industrious Richard Plant in Flintshire, who might be set in the context of a Savoyard master mason who, in 1280-82, oversaw, on behalf of Henry III's son, King Edward I, the building of Flint Castle across the river Dee from Chester; this castle was partly rebuilt after a Welsh attack in 1294. Later, the 1350 mention of the London priest Henry Plante of Risole evidently refers to Risoul in the French Alps.

There might also have been associations of the Plant name with traditions ensuing from the earlier English earldom of Chester and Lincoln. As already indicated, the earliest known evidence that the Plant name was hereditary in England is the listed 1279 Plante record for Burgh in Lincolnshire, which suggests that the Plante name had been hereditary for one or two generations previously. A 1344 Plant record for Burgh Marsh indicates that the family was still there some time later. Burgh-le-marsh in Lincolshire is about 16 miles from Boston and 9 miles from Bolingbroke Castle which had been built by Randulf de Blundeville, earl of Chester, and earl of Lincoln from 1217, who also held Huntingdon, which is the location of the de Plantes listed record dated 1282. In 1189, Ranulph had married Countess Constance of Brittany, the widowed daughter-in-law of Geffrey Plante Genest; and, in 1214, he had founded Dieulacres Abbey, near Leek, to relocate the community of Poulton Abbey to the other side of Cheshire, safer from attacks from the Welsh. In 1237, the earldom was annexed by the crown. The Black Prince, eldest son of Edward III, was buying wool from Dieulacres in 1347 and the Abbey owned land near Macclesfield, the location of the Prince's stud farm. Subsequently, there is evidence that the hereditary Plant surname was established in its main homeland, around both Macclesfield and Dieulacres, astride the Cheshire-Staffordshire border, as evidenced in the listed Plont(e) records of 1360, 1373, 1379, 1381, 1383-84, 1395, and 1406.

John of Gaunt, another son of Edward III, acquired Bolingbroke Castle in south Lincolnshire and lived there during the 1360s and 1370s. In 1394, a sexagenerian John Plaint appeared as a witness at Lincoln in connection with the issue of John of Gaunt's earlier extra-marital affair. The Angevin Warennes, descendants of count Geffrey Plante Genest, had by then relocated their main base to Poynton in east Cheshire, near Macclesfield in the main (?subsequent) Plant homeland. The 1352 Plant record can be tentatively associated with this relocation to east Cheshire from the Warenne's Hundred in Norfolk. Migration to the south from east Cheshire might have related partly to the fact that Dieulacres Abbey was a major landholder in Staffordshire; and, as indicated by the listed 1381 Plonte record, the maintenance of these land-holding rights attracted more attention than might be imagined from a more usual view of religious duties for the eleven monks in 1381 at Dieulacres.

How any of this relates to the modern Plant surname is a matter for conjecture and ongoing investigation, except to say that there was an early secondary cluster of the Plant name around Bolingbroke in south Lincolnshire, with the main cluster of the name persisting around Dieulacres, in Leek parish, at the northernmost tip of Staffordshire, just over the border from east Cheshire. This is described further elsewhere on this web site.

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