cultivar and variety: was Re: Freesia laxa 'Joan Evans'

Jim McKenney
Thu, 08 Dec 2011 08:49:44 PST
Dennis wrote: "say what?!?  it's used all the time in the circles I'm involved in.  so...i have to say you're completely wrong (in my experience, in my region of
the country/world, in my gardening clubs, etc.)."

Dennis, what do you think people mean when they use the word cultivar? Or to put it into a broader context, what useful information do you think the word conveys? Among people who grow the hybridized forms of peonies, iris, roses, lilies, hostas and so many more plants, the word cultivar is utterly superfluous.  In the case of any of those well hybridized plants, what is the answer to the question "cultivated variety of what?" They cannot be accurately described as cultivated  varieties of any species because they are hybrids. And unless you began to take an interest in plants at the beginning of this sentence, you already know that the plant in question is a peony, iris, rose, lily, host or whatever.  What additional information is conveyed by describing them as cultivars? It's empty fluff in that sort of context. 

I use the word occasionally and I hope carefully. For instance, " 'Festiva Maxima' is a famous old cultivar of Paeonia lactiflora" makes sense to me because the answer to the question "What is 'Festiva Maxima' a cultivar of?" is "Paeonia lactiflora", something many people might not be aware of (which is not to say that they want to know that). But to my sensibilities, it's stupid (or redundant) to say  " 'Coral Charm' is a beautiful peony cultivar". Why? Because if you ask the question "What is 'Coral Charm' a cultivar of?"' , the answer is "peony". But you have already noted that it is a peony, so that is redundant. 

Jim McKenney

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