White onion

Mark McDonough antennaria@charter.net
Sat, 19 Feb 2011 14:03:48 PST
Hello Lauw and Jim,

The invalid name Allium "cowanii" is a name so deeply entrenched in 
horticulture and the Dutch bulb trade that it will never be eradicated, 
sigh.  Allium "cowanii" Lindley was described in 1823 as a species sent 
from Peru by James Cowan and cultivated in the garden of the 
Horticultural Society at Chiswick England.  John Lindley believed it to 
be a true South American species, and named it, not understanding at the 
time the plant in fact represented an early introduction of Allium 
neapolitanum (a European-Mediterranean species) into the "New World".

Some will argue "but this looks different than typical A. neapolitanum". 
This ubiquitous species is found through southern Europe, the Middle 
East, and North Africa, and accordingly it varies widely, although the 
bulk of what is grown in the Dutch bulb trade is probably derived from a 
single clone that's been mass produced for many decades, so growers are 
unfamiliar with varying forms of the species.

Googling around, one can also find made up epithets such as A. 
neapolitanum var. cowanii, and A. neapolitanum Cowanii Group (???) and 
other nonsense.  If it is felt to be a particularly good form of 
neapolitanum, then perhaps it should just get a cultivar name and be 
called something like A. neapolitanum 'James Cowan'.  But the long and 
short of it, it is nothing more than Allium neapolitanum.

I wonder if the mistake will presist for another two centuries?

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA
Alpine-L list-owner
NARGS moderator & co-admin
forum sign-up at http://nargs.orf/smf/

> From: "contact" <contact@bulbargence.com>
> Hello Jim,
> Yes at first we called it A cowanni, but then an allium expert pointed 
> out that   this plant   was merely a subspecies or form of A. 
> neopolitanum.
> Maybe Mark  can elighten us on this point.
> Greetings
> Lauw de Jager
> South of France
> -----Original Message-----
> that one with straight thick stems - is that the plant known in
> gardening circles as Allium cowanii? Jim McKenney

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