Descriptive terms for unidentified bulbs

Wed, 19 Mar 2008 18:54:38 PDT
I don't know that anyone should feel sorry for keeping up this interesting
thread, so long as we are learning from it. It touches on certain minutiae
that can exasperatingly difficult to clarify on one's own. I think more than
a few growers have wondered after the meaning of "cf." and "aff."
Jane's more restrictive use of "cf." is new to me but it seems this might
quash civilian (non-scientific) use of the term. For the record the more
ambiguous "?" is also commonly used in scientific circles, especially in
herbaria as part of label annotations.

In my own collection I mainly use cf. or aff. for plants that arrive with no
name whatsoever. This is convenient in cases where I may be able to make a
tentative identification, say from a wildflower book, but need better
information to feel certain about a name. Rather than consulting an
herbarium this often means waiting for an expert to turn up and issue a
verdict using photos or live plants. Very few people live near an herbarium
that is well-supplied with specimens relevant to what they grow.

It is worth noting here that all of this is rather academic, as they say,
when it comes to plants that have no provenance-- information about their
wild origin. A plant of "garden origin" may remain without positive
identification indefinitely as hybridization and genetic anomalies are more
common than in material that can be traced back to a place in the wild.

Dylan Hannon

On Wed, Mar 19, 2008 at 10:54 AM, Jane McGary <>

> I'm sorry to keep this thread up, but had to comment on:
> >It sounds like perhaps I could have been using Romulea cf.
> >bulbocodium instead of Romulea aff. bulbocodium.
> A botanist once told be that "cf." should not be used unless one has
> actually compared (one meaning of conferre) the plant in question with
> herbarium specimens. It this is so, "aff." would be safer for those of us
> who don't have access to the world's herbaria. However, I shall continue
> to
> use question marks, particularly on the totally confusing green-and-brown
> Fritillaria species, quite a lot of which are now in flower here.
> Jane McGary
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