Crocus 'Golden Bunch'

Jim McKenney
Wed, 30 Mar 2005 11:57:11 PST
Thanks, Jane and Alberto, now we're getting a little closer to still elusive

I don't know why, but when I first started in Crocus, I understood 'Golden
Bunch' to be a sort of vernacular sobriquet for Crocus ancyrensis in
general: Crocus ancyrensis, the Golden Bunch Crocus, just as one would say
Crocus sativus, the Saffron Crocus. Jane's quote from Hoog's list makes this
reading unlikely. 

Do you share my exasperation with lists which announce new cultivars without
specifying their hierarchical rank (sorry to have said it in such an ugly
way)? For instance, in the Hoog list Jane cites, Golden Bunch is described
as a 'selection' of Crocus ancyrensis. What does this word 'selection' mean?
I'll bet that no one knows for sure. For instance, is 'Golden Bunch' - to
take one extreme of the many possibilities - one particular clone of Crocus
ancyrensis? Or -to take the opposite extreme - does 'Golden Bunch'
correspond to the non-clonal progeny of a particularly nice seed-raised
strain, perhaps from a localized, distinct wild population of Crocus

We may never know, in part because commercial propagation sooner or later
almost always comes to rely on the propagation of particular clones. What we
buy today may be clonal in nature, even if the original 'Golden Bunch' was
more in the nature of a seed raised strain. 

These distinctions are hardly irrelevant. If 'Golden Bunch' was originally a
clonal selection, then its seedlings cannot bear the same name. A practical
person might at this point want to mention the likelihood that seedlings
nearly identical to the original clone might easily arise and not be noticed
and become inextricably mixed with the 'true' stock. Years ago I saw someone
offering what they claimed to be the original clone of Rudbeckia
'Goldsturm'. Good luck as you pays yer money and gets yer... 
Last year, I raised similar questions about the identity of the tulip 'Red
Emperor'. I find the historical facts equally ambiguous in that case. 'Red
Emperor' is known to have been of wild origin, and it apparently does not
correspond completely with wild Tulipa fosteriana as we know it today.

By the way, Alberto, I share your respect for Patrick Synge's legacy: his
published work had a profound influence on the development of my interest in
bulbs and good garden plants in general. In Mathew's (notice that I have
spelled his name correctly this time; his name is for me the modern
equivalent of Signor Tommasini's name: I always have to stop and ask myself
how many t's or how many m's ?) treatment of the genus, C. ancyrensis and C.
olivieri are both placed in Mathew's Section Nudiscapus, C. ancyrensis in
the Series Reticulati Mathew and C. olivieri in the Series  Flavi Mathew. So
while to the casual observer they are just yellow crocuses, to the student
of crocus they are well separated. Synge probably based his treatment on
that in Bowles, where C. ancyrensis (with no mention of 'Golden Bunch') is
placed among Bowles' 'Eastern Reticulate Species' and C. olivieri among
Bowles' 'Aureus Group'. For those of you who don't eat and breathe Crocus,
C. aureus is an old synonym of C. flavus - so the basic arrangement has
strong similarities. I point all of this out to emphasize that the
distinction between C. ancyrensis and C. olivieri has been clearly
maintained throughout the period in question, making it more likely (to my
way of thinking) that  there were at one time two 'Golden Bunch' cultivars -
or a significant goof in identification! 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where I think the mother lode
of this vein of gold is still ahead of us.  

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