Crocus flavus
Wed, 31 Jan 2007 12:10:55 PST
On 31 Jan 07, at 12:25, Jim McKenney wrote:

> Roger Whitlock quibbled over my use of the word "thought" in
> discussing the origin of Crocus 'Dutch Yellow'.

Not at all a quibble. There is such a thing as scientific certainty 
and in this case, the use of "thought" obscures what we *know* *with* 
*certainty* about 'Dutch Yellow' -- thereby misleading the ignorant 
and possibly confusing the savvy. Since a presumable purpose of the 
PBS list is the diffusion of knowledge, not urban folkloreand old 
wives' tales, yes, this issue is important enough to raise a small 
fuss over. Especially given that 'Dutch Yellow' is one of the most 
common of crocuses in gardens.

> Whether he meant to or not, Roger has raised the issue of the nature
> of certainly [sic] in science. 
> The word I used reflects my views on this subject; does the word
> "known" reflect his? 

The view that we *think* 'Dutch Yellow' is a hybrid is out of date 
(indeed, downright obsolete) and does not take into account a 
scientific investigation into its ancestry carried out nearly thirty 
years ago. I thought this work well-known to every serious crocus 
fancier, but I guess I'm wrong about that.

The view I put forth is that of the standard authority on the genus, 
Brian Mathew. I make no claim to any originality; to call the hybrid 
origin of 'Dutch Yellow' *my* view does nothing but further obscure 
the issue.

Let's see what Brian Mathew has had to say on about the origin of 
'Dutch Yellow' and see how his views evolved over time:

Brian Mathew, "Dwarf Bulbs", Arco, 1973, p. 81:

"The 'Dutch Yellow' is an old clone of [Crocus flavus]."

Christopher Grey-Wilson and Brian Mathew, "Bulbs; the Bulbous Plants 
of Europe and Their Allies", Collins, 1981, p 188:

"[Crocus flavus] is usually cultivated in the form known as Dutch 
Yellow, although this may be a hybrid."

Brian Mathew, "The Crocus", Batsford, 1982, p. 94:

"The cultivar 'Golden Yellow' ...has certain characteristics which 
suggest to me that it is a hybrid between C. flavus and C. 
angustifolius (C. susianus). Both species were known as garden plants 
in the 16th century so that, although they do not occur together in 
the wild, they have had ample opportunity to hybridize in 
cultivation. Cytological investigations into 'Golden Yellow' and its 
supposed parents have been made at Kew by C. A. Brighton and C. J. 
Scarlett (1980) and they confirm that it is indeed a sterile triploid 
hybrid derived from these two species, wholly maintained by 
vegetative propagation."

Brian Mathew, "The Smaller Bulbs", Batsford, 1987, p. 47:

"...the old large-flowered cultivar 'Dutch Yellow' ('Golden Yellow') 
which is actually a C. flavus hybrid."

So we see the evolution from "is a clone" via "may be a hybrid" to 
"is indeed a hybrid" to simple "is actually" as the situation was 
clarified by careful scientific scrutiny.

I call this certainty.

If anyone wants to take a position contrary to the view of an expert 
who has spent a lifetime working on the genus Crocus, by all means do 
so. Everyone is entitled to believe whatever they want to, be it a 
flat earth or a moon made of green cheese or uncertainty about the 
parentage of 'Dutch Yellow'. I am not so bold myself, being of a 
rather timid and unassertive nature, besides having Brian Mathew in 
my personal gallery of great men.

Rodger Whitlock
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Maritime Zone 8, a cool Mediterranean climate

on beautiful Vancouver Island

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