White Onion

Mark McDonough antennaria@charter.net
Sun, 20 Feb 2011 17:15:28 PST
> Jim McKenney <jamesamckenney@verizon.net> wrote:
> What this is about is an ostensibly distinct, some might say superior 
> (from a horticultural point of view) form of Allium neapolitanum.

Search the web to reveal A. neapolitanum and it's close allies (A. 
subvillosum, subhirsutum, and even A. roseum), all vary to a great 
degree; finding both poor forms to really superior forms. Do superior 
forms exist, sure, should they get named as separate species, obviously 
no...  the case of "cowanii" is a blunder made nearly 2 centuries ago, 
it is a relic.  If as you purport, plants grown under the invalid 
"cowanii" name represent a superior form of Allium neapolitanum, 
identifiy it as such with a cultivar name, possibly A. neapolitanum 
'Cowan', or A. neapolitanum 'Cowan's Beautiful Boo-Boo'. I see no 
purpose in perpetuating a nearly two century old mistake.

> It would be a pity to lose track of this form simply because 
> taxonomists cannot make up their mind about its proper rank
> or name.

Apply a cultivar name, and it is not lost.  The statement "taxonomists 
cannot make up their mind about its proper rank or name" is not 
accurate; "cowanii" has long been recognized as an invalid epithet, and 
placed into synonymy with Allium neapolitanum.  The name "cowanii" is 
not a proper name, there is no rank to consider because, it is 
recognized as a mistake.

The Plant List, "cowanii" listed as a synonym of A. neapolitanum:

Kew World Checklist - "cowanii" is a synonum of Allium neapolitanum:

Hortus Third, 1976 - listed as a synonym of Allium neapolitanum

Alliums, The Ornamental Onions, Dilys Davies, 1992 - "a non-valid name 
for A. neapolitanum".

Allium Nomenclator, Allium names and synonyms - a World Guide, 1998 - 
synonym of A. neapolitanum

A Revision of the Genus Allium L. (Liliaceae) in Africa, Brigitta De 
Wilde-Duyfjes, 1976 - synonym of A. neapolitanum.

I'm sure there are a gazillion web sites out there that parrot the name 
Allium cowanii, and the Dutch bulb trade has also entrenched the name, 
but it seems clear that taxonomists made up their mind a long time ago.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA

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