The way infants and adults see color is processed in the brain differently. The infant brain sees color in a pre-linguistic part of the brain. Adults, in a part of the brain that deals with language. It's not known when or how that transition is accomplished, but:
"As an adult, color categorization is influenced by linguistic categories. It differs as the language differs," said Kay, who is renowned for his studies on the ways that different cultures classify colors. He cited recent research on the ability of Russian speakers to detect shades of blue that English speakers classify as a single color.
Is this the contemporary equivalent of Eskimo words for snow?
Luke Wroblewski wrote an article for Boxes and Arrows about using colors found in nature as inspiration for color palettes used in designing web sites.
Unfortunately, the photos showing Luke's examples don't appear to be working on the site (the images have been fixed...thx, Lars), but Dave Shea published an image that illustrates Luke's technique.
When you're on the beach in the Caribbean as I was recently, it's difficult for the color palette to escape your notice. I whipped up this collection of colors from some of my photos (coming soon) from Mexico:
From left to right, you've got the pale blue of the ocean close to shore, the light brown of the sand, the green of the lush vegetation, and the deep clear blue of the sky.
Update: A couple people asked, so here are the hex values for the above colors: 3DB8AE, FFEDD8, 396600, and 0050A2, respectively.