Good evening group, roused from torpor, here is my small
As always, when this topic of names comes up, there are
several interests being confused. The most important issue is that each of us
knows what another person is referring to when a plant ‘name”
enters into the exchange. If I am standing with Dewey Fisk looking at a bench
of has plants, I can refer to one specimen by pointing and calling it “that
yellow one at the end of the bench”. He will look, and will know with
some certainty the plant to which I refer. If I leave and call him up that
afternoon, I can probably still get a cutting from the right plant by my choice
of a descriptor. The following month, of course, I could get a completely
different item dropped off at my door even if both of us, with good intentions
and using our best efforts try to identify the plant that I want. Try this
after a hurricane has wrecked a shade house, and imagine the problem.
Suppose now that Dewey had come across the yellow plant in a
bunch of seedlings and had grown it on and propagated it, found it to maintain
whatever character made it distinct from others, and decided that he had
something that should be shared more widely. He might well decide to talk it up
among the aroid mob and call it “Deweys Sunshine” as he spoke, so
that if we wanted to buy or trade a piece we could tell him what we had in mind
by using this name, which would refer to a particular set of identical plants
that came from a common ancestor. He may not have known what the male parent
was that gave life to the offspring of the drab female – might have been a
freak self-pollination (come on, we don’t know everything about the
sexual habits of our aroids), might have been pollen blown on the wind, might
have been a zygote and embryo formed by a chromosome doubling, or formed from
the mother’s tissue without going through a sexual process. It doesn’t
matter. It is distinct, it holds its character and pieces taken from it and
rooted continue to look the same. These characters are enough to allow it
to be given a cultivar name, and if Dewey likes the honor from the name that
his friends came up with over a brew, this is potentially Spathidendron (whatever genus it is) ‘Dewey’s
Sunshine’. It has qualified to that extent as a cultivar, and the name
changes from a common name to cultivar status with a single quote around the
name. The genus name in italics as always for a word from a foreign language
plus the cultivar name with capital letters and in single quotes.
Is this enough to establish this name? Yes, and that is fine
as long as the people who get it and propagate it in turn continue to use the
Is it official? Well, what is official? If all of the trade
knows it – yes it is the proper cultivar name. Can it be registered? No, even
if I were doing my job properly as a registrar, or if someone else took over.
It cannot be registered until a description of it that is good enough to
distinguish it from other similar plants has appeared in print (NOT on the
internet, even in an Aroid-l gallery), preferably with a picture. When that
happens, it can be submitted to the appropriate registration authority and
should appear in a list of cultivars put out and revised periodically by the
Now, read this bit carefully: as things stand, the authority
does not judge if this is distinct from others, and will not prevent the
registration of the same plant under a different name, if the rules for
publication, the claim for distinctness and the other criteria of persistence
of characters are met.
It is a registration authority that collects names, NOT a
court passing taxonomic judgments.
So is a registration authority worthwhile? Yes, it
definitely is, in that there is a certain amount of trouble needed to submit
the name and the documentation, which discourages a few of the fly-by-night
operators and ebay sellers from coming up with names that do not appear on the
registrar’s list. If the registrar also collects and publishes information
on origin or parentage, there is also a tremendous value in this as a resource
for people studying the group. If dried or spirit collections of the
plant and the description are deposited in an herbarium where they are
available for study this is even better.
But note that if this plant has been selected from a group
of seedlings from a cross carefully made and controlled, there is no reason why
a number of them may not be distinct enough to merit a common or a cultivar
name after they have gone through the tests of stability of their characters as
they age and as propagations are made from them. The distinct ones get a common
name first (Pugturd 05-396, Pugturd 05-311, Pugturd 05-324) and if they prove
worth growing on, and if cuttings from them look the same as the parent, then
they are eligible to be named as cultivars (‘Pugturd’s Fantasy’,
‘Pugturd’s Joy’ and ‘Pugturd’s Despair’).
These cultivars may then be registered (if the Registrar becomes active) once
the plants have had suitable descriptions published in a printed form (a
catalog distributed at a trade show will do).
So the naming thing comes down to this. Label the plants as
you will to tie them to whatever records you keep. The records could be written
or electronic. If they have a lot of information in them. make sure that your
heirs, successors or assigns have access to them when you go to the Great Wet Wall
in the Sky. If you develop a population of something great by propagating from
a great parent, continue to label each of these to tie them to the parent until
you want to launch them into the world of horticulture. At this point you could
think up what will be a cultivar name and use it in an article in a magazine or
in a catalog with enough information to make clear the plant to which you
refer. At that point you have met the requirements to submit it to a registrar
for the group. And for it to appear in lists put out by the registrar. No one
else will be able to use that cultivar name for another plant. Immortality.!
The down side? Someone else can propagate your plant, raise a
population and publish a new cultivar name for it. There is no protection
against this. Doesn’t life suck.
Sleep well, aroiders, your registrar will.