Peruvian Daffodil

Jim McKenney
Fri, 23 Mar 2007 08:01:45 PDT
Jim Waddick asked about Peruvian daffodils.

If you can grow tomatoes, you can grow these. They should do very well in
Missouri. They are carefree, prolific and floriferous in the right climate
(hot summers, humidity is fine, occasional water, reasonable fertility; they
are not fussy about soil and apparently are pest free). You do have to dig
them in the autumn, and if your back is like mine, you won't appreciate what
comes up out of the ground.  

Traditionally, the name Peruvian daffodil was used for Hymenocallis
narcissiflora, a plant known in much of the older popular literature as
Ismene calathina. Much of the material which I have seen over the years
appears to be clonal in nature and is readily identified because it often
produces five parted (instead of six parted) flowers. 

Jim Waddick mentioned the hybrid ‘festalis’. This is said to have arisen as
the result of crossing Hymenocallis narcissiflora and the plant once known
as Elisene longipetala. In its original incarnation, it was thus a
“bigeneric hybrid”.  But Elisene longipetala is now generally called
Hymenocallis longipetala. It is available in the trade and resembles the
hybrid ‘festalis’ although it has a much smaller corona. 

‘Festalis’ itself is widely available in two versions: ‘festalis’ and
‘festalis Zwanenbrug’ – the latter is a bit bigger as I know it. 

The yellow one, Hymenocallis ×sporfforthiae   ‘Sulfur Queen’ is the result
of crossing Hymenocallis narcissiflora and H. amancaës. It’s as easily grown
as the others. The yellow color is very pale (think Nelumbo lutea or natural
butter). It’s very beautiful and, as are the rest, very fragrant. 

Some of you may be wondering why I wrote the name amancaës with two little
dots over the letter e. In Latin, the letter combination ae is a diphthong
and is assigned a sound different than the sound of either a or e standing
alone. However, in the word amancaës the letter combination ae is not
intended to be a diphthong: it is intended to be the sound of the letter a
followed by the sound of the letter e. To indicate this, the two little dots
(technically, a dieresis, and not to be confused with the umlaut used in
German words or with the similar dots used in other languages ) are placed
over the e. One consequence: the word amancaës is a four syllable word, not
a three syllable word. 

In the English speaking world the use of the dieresis is obsolescent, some
might say obsolete. We generally drop a syllable from these words and thus
mispronounce the words where it should be used. Common examples: Aloë (three
syllables) , Kalenchoë (four syllables) , Danaë (three syllables). 

Because American English itself does not have formally recognized
diphthongs, the use of the dieresis in American English words is generally
regarded as an affectation. When was the last time you saw the word
coöperation? Every once in a while a writer will get a bee up his pants
about the suffix –oides in botanical names. This suffix is of Greek origin,
and in Greek there is a letter combination made up of the letters omicron
(short o) and iota (written as i) treated as a diphthong and pronounced as
oi in oink. There is a double trap here for the unwary. First of all, when
written in Roman characters representing Latin words, the oi in the suffix
–oides is not the Greek diphthong just mentioned (even though the suffix is
derived from Greek). It is simply the Roman character o followed by the
Roman character i. The other part of the trap is this: the letter
combination oi is not a diphthong in Latin (or in general in the languages
derived from it). Thus, it represents not the oinking sound but simply the
sound of the letter o followed by the sound of the letter i. 

That is also why speakers of so many languages other than English don’t have
to be told to include that extra syllable. 

In English, this oi letter combination gets the oinking sound. In Latinized
botanical names, the suffix –oides should not have the oinking sound. One
nationally distributed and otherwise well edited popular gardening magazine
went through a phase where the suffix –oides in botanical names was printed
as –oïdes. This is poor form because it is redundant. Oi is not a diphthong
in Latin. There is no need to separate something which is not joined.  

And I haven’t even had any coffee this morning.

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where it's already warm
enough for open windows and  for the house to be filled with the scent of

My Virtual Maryland Garden
Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
Editor PVC Bulletin 
Webmaster Potomac Lily Society

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