Clone; was: Re: [pbs] UK bulbs - anemone nem.

Jim McKenney
Sat, 12 Jun 2004 14:59:22 PDT
Jane McGary included this passage in a recent email which discussed the
British National Collections system:

>A standing committee examines proposals and certifies 
>the collections based on fairly elaborate criteria. 

This reminded me of something a friend mentioned to me recently, something
I had often wondered about. Apparently some of the Dutch commercial growers
periodically get together and compare samples of clonally propagated
material of a given clone. They then decide among themselves which sample
best represents the clone, and use that material for future cloning. 

I mention this because gardeners are often under the mistaken impression
that clones are uniform and have no genetic variation. 

I think it's pretty much axiomatic that the less frequently a clone is
propagated, the less variation it will show - and the more it is
propagated, the more variation it is likely to accumulate.

Incidentally, has anyone noticed how the concept of clone seems to be
changing - due partly, I think, to recent advances in cloning vertebrates
and the consequent publicity of the word? I can't be sure about the very
first original sense of the word when it appeared in the late nineteenth
century, but very quickly it seems to have acquired the meaning (when
applied to plants) "all of the plants which result from the asexual
propagation of one original plant". In its original sense, the word applied
to the group, not to the separate plants which made up the group. 
As the word came to be used more often (early nineteenth century authors of
good repute sometimes spelled it clon; I think I've even seen klon), the
original meaning came to be replaced by one of the purported attributes of
clones, in the mistaken belief that all the members of a clone are
identical. Thus emerged the meaning "identical copy". This seems to be the
prevailing sense now, especially among lay people, biologists working in
cloning vertebrate animals and newspaper writers covering cloning issues. 

Don't some plant people still hold out for the original meaning? 

I prefer the original meaning, but then, personal preference has nothing to
do with it if you're outnumbered.

Any thoughts in the group about this? 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where I'm off to cook a meal
which I'm determined will not be a clone of every other one I've had this

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