Before you read through The Plants We Grow, it might be a good idea to get some feeling for the terms I use in naming plants regarding their genus, species, etc. Michael Dirr, in his marvelous book Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, has on page 22 of the 1990 revision an excellent essay on nomenclature. He is a professor of horticulture and does things correctly. Being a nurseryman, I’ve sort of formulated my own way of doing things over the past few years, and not being in academic circles, I figure I can get away with it. I’m close to being correct, but not entirely so. Here’s an explanation to help you understand my method, using Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Ever Red’ as an example.

Acer — I consider this the “genus” name — genus is Maple.

palmatum — I consider the “species” name — species is Japanese Maple.

dissectum — I consider the “group” — the Threadleaf Japanese Maple group.

Ever Red’ — I consider the “variety” name — variety is Ever Red.’

“Varieties,” to me, are plants that have to be propagated asexually by either cuttings or grafts because they come from one original plant or mutation on a plant. They will not come true from seed. For instance, Pica glauca ‘Ed Hirle’ is a distinct variety that came from a mutated branch on an Alberta Spruce. This branch mutation is called a “sport.”

“Clone,” to me, is a group of plants which comes from one original plant or branch sport where all reproduction is done asexually. In my terminology “clone” and “variety” are the same except that a variety has been given a name — clones do not necessarily have to been given a name. For instance, we are growing all our Enkianthus campanulatus ‘Summer Hill’ from cuttings we took from a superior seedling many years ago. ‘If we had just continued to sell it as Enkianthus campanulatus, I would say, “We are selling a very nice clone. — we grow them all from cuttings and not from seed.” However, since we put the name ‘Summer Hill’ on it, I now call it the “variety” ‘Summer Hill.’

When I mention the term “type” plant, I mean the plant as it would be found in the wild. This, of course, opens up room for a lot of variation since plants in the wild are produced from seed, and there are variations in their growth due to genetic factors, the localities they come from, soil they are growing in, etc. However, there are general similarities within each species, and this is to what I refer.

I use the word “form” very often when I’m describing plants. It’s a nice word, I like it, and it can mean almost anything.





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