Seeds forum: Confusion re cultivars and hybrids

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Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Herbs Dragonflies Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry
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Bonehead
Aug 7, 2016 6:09 PM CST
Are all named cultivars a hybrid, and thus won't come true to seed? Or is it only the ones with a 'x' in their name that are hybrids? Or am I way off base? I have noted in some of the database entries, there will be a notation of 'comes true to seed' or 'does not come true to seed.' I'm not much of a seed guy, but after a recent road trip, came home to lots of ripe seeds that I would have normally deadheaded off when the blooms were spent. I had some fun today gathering and cleaning seeds from Salvia 'Blue Queen' - then got to wondering if it makes any sense to store these, or just go back to my normal habit of splitting perennials I want to multiply. I assume any that are not a named cultivar will be OK to save, correct? For example, I have some generic Nigella that is all podded up, and this did reseed itself last year, so I'm guessing I can let the seed mature and harvest those. Although, now that I think about it, the first year there was a mix of pink and purple, and this year it was all mostly purple. No problem for me, I'm not much of a pink guy either.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
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RickCorey
Aug 9, 2016 6:37 PM CST
Sorry, Deb, I couldn't find that out online.

Funny how people who want to sell us things splatter their website with photos and verbiage and inflated claims ... but INFORMATION about what they are selling? In very short supply.

If they told us anything useful, we might save our own seeds.

I see :
" Genus: Salvia, Species: x superba "
and:
"Hybrid sage (Salvia × superba)"
and
"This hybrid of S. nemorosa and S. sylvestris"
and
"Synonyms: S. nemerosa 'Superba' "

So your guess is as good as mine.

My guess is that something was hybridized with something rather dissimilar some decades ago, and has been somewhat stabilized since then. I'm GUESSING that they no longer produce commercial seed by crossing two different Salvia species, but they might have some proprietary strains that are good for producing relatively "true" or at least predictable F1 seeds.

But I'm just guessing. If you plant them, something will probably grow. Probably blue. But how close to the parents? I would love to know, especially since all the vendors are so coy about the single most basic, most important fact about a seed: will it come true?

I guess that is less important to vendors than : "Will they buy from me again if I keep them as ignorant as I possibly can?"

Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
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kqcrna
Aug 10, 2016 5:55 PM CST

Moderator

Shrug!
Name: Mary
Lake Stevens, WA (Zone 8a)
Near Seattle
Bookworm Garden Photography Plant and/or Seed Trader Plays in the sandbox Region: Pacific Northwest Seed Starter
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Pistil
Aug 13, 2016 2:09 PM CST
The problem is, the word "hybrid" is used in more than one way.

In classic botany that I learned in college, a "hybrid" corn for example, was created by making two very pure strains of corn that are genetically very uniform, then crossing large numbers of them (one strain is mom, one is dad) to make a field full of offspring seeds, with hybrid vigor. This is the F1 Hybrid seed that you buy. The plants you grow from them are very uniform in terms of growth rate, size, flavor, and disease resistance. If you save seed from these, the offspring (F2 generation) exhibits a lot of variability, which the farmer does not want. It does not "come true to seed". Think Gregor Mendel.

"Hybrid" also means a cross between two species. For example Viburnum xburkwoodii is a hybrid between V. carlessii and V. utile. People have made this cross multiple times, so we have cultivars like 'Mohawk', and 'Chenault' and 'Conoy'. The x in the new name is an alert that this was made by crossing two species. If you save seeds from 'Mohawk' the offspring will be variable (Assuming it is fertile, some hybrids like Mules are not). Sometimes there are inter-generic crosses. These are then named with a contraction of the two genus names, with the x in front of this, like xFatshedera . However the fact of inter-genus mating may cause the taxonomists to question the accepted taxonomy. This happened with xDigiplexis, where they decided the Isoplexis canariensis was really a Digitalis! This one was bred by a Botanist at Thompson and Morgan Seed company, he tried for years before he got any fertile offspring from his crosses. Anyway these crosses could be done by you, and you could indeed produce your own Viburnum xburkwoodii by crossing a V. carlesii and V. utile. It would be called V xburkwoodii, but would NOT be 'Mohawk'. And you could not take seed from a 'Mohawk' and call the offspring 'Mohawk'. To make another 'Mohawk' you need to use vegetative reproduction like grafting, layering, cuttings or even now micropropagation.

"Cultivar" simply means a CULTIvated VARiety. It could be a plant that volunteered in someones garden or that was bred on purpose. There are some that do "come true from seed" because the breeder produced a pure strain, with little genetic variability. To keep it up and keep the strain nice requires some fancy care, and careful "roguing out" of any rogue plant in the seed field that is not true to type, before it can make seed. The strain should be called "open pollinated" if hand pollination was not done. Often without careful roguing, the plants will gradually revert to the regular species, like your Nigella. Heuchera 'Firefly' is a seed strain. Other cultivars must be propagated vegetatively to stay true to type, like Heuchera 'Caramel'. Your Salvia 'Blue Queen' is sold as a seed. If you collect seed from it you cannot call it 'Blue Queen', but the offspring will likely be similar. Some might be much taller, or a different color.

Now the word "hybrid' gets murkier. Some people use the word "hybridizer" to mean "breeder", or "hybrid" to mean a "cultivar". I might "breed" Collies, trying to get a better strain of Collies, but I am not a Collie "hybridizer".

Anyway, you can have a lot of fun sprouting the seeds of your named garden plants, but to have a named cultivar you do have to use vegetative methods of propagation, like division. I have found doing a little google search will often give me the info I need to guess at what the offspring might be of a plant in my garden. It's a lot of fun to save seed.

An example, Hellebores. The whole taxonomy of Hellebores is now complicated. They used to call the usual ones H. orientalis, but then decided they were too mixed up from people hybridizing (and breeding) dozens of species, so now they call them Helleborus xhybridus, to alert us that they are not pure species anymore.
The O'Byrnes in Oregon breed Hellebores, their nursery sells their 'Winter Jewels' strains, and you can buy plants or seeds. These are stabilized seed strains, so there is some variability of the plants. I have a bunch of yellow ones called 'Golden Sunrise'. they have different amounts of maroon speckles, but I like that. I could probably save seed and get yellow offspring (only if I put net bags around the flower buds and then hand pollinated them, as I have other Hellebores nearby). But I could not call them 'Golden Sunrise'.
Other named Hellebores are "one-offs", every plant the same having been propagated vegetatively from a single plant.

This does not even get into PP, PPAF, and Trademarked (TM) names. Or if seed-grown plants may or may not have stronger constitutions.

So far there does not seem to be any standardized way of alerting seed traders here on the seed swaps, as to what you are offering when it is seed from a named parent. I have resorted to saying the name of the mother cultivar, then putting an O.P. (for open pollinated) to alert folks of what they are getting. Does anyone have any better idea?

Well, I hope this helps. It really is complicated!







Thumb of 2016-08-13/Pistil/29e4bf

Name: Mary
Lake Stevens, WA (Zone 8a)
Near Seattle
Bookworm Garden Photography Plant and/or Seed Trader Plays in the sandbox Region: Pacific Northwest Seed Starter
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Pistil
Aug 24, 2016 10:59 PM CST
Deb- I was looking in a book I have called Garden Flowers from Seed, by Christopher Lloyd and Graham Rice. GR says that Salvia 'Blue Queen' is a good SEED STRAIN, so I think you are in luck (I immediately went and checked and this is the kind you saved seeds from)! He says they seed around well in his garden. The book is from 1994, but that strain of Salvia is still around-it must be a good one.
Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Herbs Dragonflies Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry
Birds Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Garden Ideas: Master Level Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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Bonehead
Aug 25, 2016 10:51 AM CST
Great! Now I just need to figure out which cup I put those in... Your book sounds like a good resource.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Mary
Lake Stevens, WA (Zone 8a)
Near Seattle
Bookworm Garden Photography Plant and/or Seed Trader Plays in the sandbox Region: Pacific Northwest Seed Starter
Winter Sowing
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Pistil
Aug 25, 2016 12:04 PM CST
It's really a great book, but it does not pretend to be complete. It is done in a conversational style, they each talk about their experience with seed starting in general, and each kind of plant. I feel like I got to go to lunch with two super experienced nurserymen who are exchanging views on seeds they have each grown. It has all kinds of personal tips and tricks. I was looking in it because I am starting to save summer seeds for swapping. I wore out my prior copy, got another one at Half Price Books this year.
Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN zone 4a
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Plant Identifier
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Leftwood
Sep 19, 2016 6:16 PM CST
A very well thought out explanation, Mary. And that's only about the second time I've ever seen someone use the cross symbol correctly in that way! Thumbs up Thumbs up Thumbs up

It's a lot for people to digest, and I'm sure you spent a lot of time re editing that post to make it as accurate as possible. Thanks for taking the time!
Name: Mary
Lake Stevens, WA (Zone 8a)
Near Seattle
Bookworm Garden Photography Plant and/or Seed Trader Plays in the sandbox Region: Pacific Northwest Seed Starter
Winter Sowing
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Pistil
Sep 19, 2016 6:25 PM CST
Thanks Rick! I do think I must have spent about an hour and a half on it, and checked my Horticulture Textbook a few times to make sure I had it right. The only thing I am not sure about is if it is proper to leave a space after the x or not, I have seen it both ways. Do you know?
I had some college classes in Botany and Soil Science, but no Horticulture. So a year or so ago I bought some used college textbooks about horticulture etc, I decided as long as I was spending all this time reading I might as well read the "official" stuff as well as all the other excellent books I have. I confess I am a "bookaholic" and an "infoholic" too. And I just ordered some more from the Barnes and Noble used book website...
Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN zone 4a
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Plant Identifier
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Leftwood
Sep 19, 2016 10:20 PM CST
Pistil said:The only thing I am not sure about is if it is proper to leave a space after the x or not, I have seen it both ways. Do you know?


Yes, I do. Or rather, the International Code of Botanical Nomencature (ICBN) does. This will keep you busy for quite some time. nodding Blinking Rolling on the floor laughing See appendix H.3.

The Code basically says that using the multiplication sign (×) is preferred, but x (the letter) is acceptable. It is supposed to be placed immediately (without a space) before the taxon name (the genus name, species epithet, etc.) - always in lower case if it is the letter x. By the way, this is pronounced "cross" and not "x"(eks). This is so it is never confused with the Latin word "ex" (pronounced "eks"), which has an altogether different botanical meaning.

The exception is when an immediately preceding "x" will cause confusion, and one might think that the "x" is part of the taxon name rather than a hybrid designation. Example: "xanthocrene" should be "x anthrocrene". This problem could only happen if you use x and not ×, of course.

And of course, using the cross symbol to connect two names, as in this manner, then there is a space - before and after:
Acer rubrum × Acer saccharinum
Which is just another way of saying Acer ×freemanii
(names of genus and lower ranks are supposed to be italicized, but it's understood if you don't.)

And just until a few years ago, the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP) was only available if you bought the manuscript at $60-100. But it's on line now, too. Hurray!
Name: Mary
Lake Stevens, WA (Zone 8a)
Near Seattle
Bookworm Garden Photography Plant and/or Seed Trader Plays in the sandbox Region: Pacific Northwest Seed Starter
Winter Sowing
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Pistil
Sep 20, 2016 9:11 AM CST
I just did a little google search for ICNCP, found the new 2016 version offered for sale, old version (over 200 pages!) as PDF. Eeek, and then I saw a 60 page USDA document titled "Plant Nomenclature and Taxonomy An Horticultural and Agronomic Perspective" , here is a tiny excerpt from the intro, so it looks like it's even more complicated than we thought:

"The goals and practices of two codes of plant nomenclature, the Inter-
national Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN) and the International
Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP) are compared, the
former (Greuter et al. 2000) used primarily for wild plants, and the lat-
ter (Trehane et al. 1995) used exclusively for cultivated plants."

Oh man this is a can of worms.
Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN zone 4a
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Plant Identifier
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Leftwood
Sep 20, 2016 9:31 AM CST
You'll get a kick of this: many, many years back, we had a good discussion on a Gardenweb forum about same. This is a clip from it, and I will sometimes use it in my seminars (with permission, of course).

RE: Nomenclature and crosses

* Posted by gardenphotographer Zone 5 WI (My Page) on
Fri, Dec 22, 06 at 10:22

Hi Rick,

Great topic. Thank you for posting this interesting question.

I'll offer you my take, which is considerably lighter in tone. Do you remember the old TV beer commercials about Miller Lite, Less Filling versus Tastes Great. This is similar to the world of plant classification. Imagine a bunch of plant people at a bar, one side is the ICBN (International Code of Systematic Botany) and the other side is the ICNCP (Internation Code of Nomemclature for Cultivated Plants). The only time that these people talk to each other is after consuming a considerable amount of beer and with much yelling and finger pointing. The only thing that they agree on is to disagree.

The ICBN looks at nature (essentially the evolution plants) and the ICNCP looks at human cultivation of plants. The fact that the two groups might be talking about the same plant never is acknowledged. It's just too much fun drinking beer, yelling, and pointing fingers.

I'll attempt to take the middle ground and say that both groups are correct and offer some comprimise. Of course, now both groups will start yelling and pointing fingers at me. Alas, so be it.

Let's assume that in a well documented observation we find that a Pelican is blown 1000 miles inland by a hurricane. Suppose that Pelicans are not normally observed this far inland. Furthermore, assume that the bird is covered with pollen and it lands, exhausted, in a field of flowers. As it happens, the pollen of a distant species fertilizes the local endemic plant. Since the Pelican is natural and the hurricane is natural, then the plant cross must be a naturally occuring hybrid. Let's call it by my made up name, Flowerium x pelicana. Clearly this is a plant claimed by the ICBN.

On the other side, a gardener grows this distant species in a pot on their windowsill and the endemic species grows natively in their backyard. The gardener crosses the two plants with an artists paintbrush and produces a manmade cross. In all ways the manmade cross appears identical to the naturally occuring hybrid. What to do? How is this plant to be identified?

The grower consults the ICBN and is booed and hissed out of that section of the bar. A human is clearly not considered part of nature. How could anyone confuse a human intervention with a Pelican being blown inland by a hurricane. Clearly one is natural and one is not.

The grower goes to the other section of the bar and is embraced by the ICNCP. After many beers, the ICNCP suggests a name. Let's call the plant, Flowerium Pelicana.

So, I offer you this. Call the naturally occuring hybrid by the nothospecies, x pelicana, and call the cultivated plant by the grex, Pelicana.

Outraged, both the ICBN and ICNCP threw me out of the bar. Blasphemy!, they yelled at me with fingers pointed. So, I, the gardener, and the Pelican, went home with a six pack and decided to sit around and just admire the plant. The flowers sure are pretty, no matter what the name happens to be.

Tom

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