Plant Database forum: Aloe arborescens "Dwarf"

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Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Aug 24, 2016 3:10 PM CST
Today I discovered an entry for Aloe x spinosissima in the plant database, as a synonym under Aloe arborescens "Dwarf"... the plant may have gone by the name "Dwarf" somewhere but it is not a variety of arborescens, instead a hybrid with Aloe humilis echinata. To correct this I would delete the misnomer (which I personally have never seen in use, at least beyond a common lower-case descriptor), and stick with the hybrid name x spinosissima.



Now I understand that the current policy here is not to represent artificial (man-made) hybrids in the plant database if they don't have a valid cultivar name ("Like This"). If that is the case then I would think the x spinosissima listing should be deleted, unless somebody can speak for the hybrid appearing in nature. I personally would like to see plants like spinosissima in the database (and it is a relatively common aloe in cultivation) but that's just my opinion. In any case the listing as it currently stands is incorrect (the plant is not a variety of arborescens) and actually only one of the two pictures is correct (the first one is another plant with spots and/or spines on the leaf surface).

I would appreciate input from the relevant contributors. @HamiltonSquare @SongofJoy
Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
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zuzu
Aug 24, 2016 4:01 PM CST

Plants Admin

We don't have an entry for A. x spinosissima, so there was no need to delete it. It's listed only as an also-sold-as name, which does not imply any degree of validity, so it can remain in the database in that capacity.

As for the entry in question, it's clear that it can't be A. arborescens 'Dwarf,' so I've removed the species name, but I've added A. arborescens 'Dwarf' as an also-sold-as name because San Marcos Growers refers specifically to it as such.

http://www.smgrowers.com/products/plants/plantdisplay.asp?pl...

The result is an entry with the rather silly name of Aloe 'Dwarf.'



I'll grant that this does not seem ideal, even with the two also-sold--as names. The only other solution I can offer, because we don't list man-made hybrids in our database, is a change that would name the entry Aloe 'Spinosissima,' treating the hybrid as a cultivar name and eliminating the 'Dwarf' label (although it would remain in the entry as an also-sold-as name). What do you think of this second solution?
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Aug 24, 2016 4:38 PM CST
I kind of figured it would turn into Aloe "Dwarf" (and I did see the SMG page)... not ideal, but better I think. Thank You! I have no problem with using spinosissima as a cultivar name, just so that the best term possible is used to identify the plant, but it's going to look wrong in quotes, and technically I think it would be wrong that way.

The only middle road I can imagine is if the hybrids with x names (like x spinosissima and only a few others, among the 500 or so species of aloes) would be accepted where they are in common use for otherwise unnamed hybrids.

These would not be natural hybrids but they are normally labeled using these names, and generally known by them in cultivation. The x names are the reason they don't have proper "Cultivar" names.

For example x nobilis, which would be quite common in cultivation, and is not present anywhere in the database (except mistakenly as a synonym for one of its parents, in a variegated listing). With respect to the last part, I would recommend that nobilis be removed as a synonym on this page as nobilis is only half perfoliata, at best.

Aloe (Aloe perfoliata 'Variegata')

If you choose to duck down this particular rabbit hole on the web for confirmation, be aware that mitriformis is another name (a synonym) for perfoliata, and used in some of the discussions there. You will see Aloe "Nobilis" on the SMG page for this plant but like "Dwarf" or "Spinosissima" I would imagine this is a name that sprouted quotation marks and capital letters through uninformed usage.

http://www.smgrowers.com/products/plants/plantdisplay.asp?pl...
Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
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zuzu
Aug 24, 2016 6:27 PM CST

Plants Admin

I deleted the erroneous identification of A. nobilis as a synonym of A. perfoliata.

The addition of hybrid taxa that are not listed in the main taxonomic databases as accepted names would be far more than a middle road. It would require a major overhaul of many genera in the database, and I'm not in favor of it. Although they are commonly used, we'd have no way of checking whether they're valid names of man-made hybrids or completely invalid names in every sense. Spiraea x bumalda is still commonly used, for example, but it's a ludicrous name because it was once thought to be a hybrid of S. japonica and S. albiflora. Now that S. albiflora has been reclassified as a synonym of S. japonica, we see a commonly used hybrid taxon that stands for a cross between S. japonica and S. japonica! Glare

Anyone searching for Aloe x spinosissima in our database will be taken to the Aloe 'Dwarf' entry because of the addition of the also-sold-as name.
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Aug 24, 2016 6:29 PM CST
Got it. Thanks again.
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Aug 24, 2016 7:55 PM CST
Just for the record, since you have taken the time to deal with these issues, I'd like to express my point of view. There are some succulents which do not or cannot fit into the database here for the aforementioned reasons. I understand your rationale and appreciate the explanation. I also can see how hybrids could overwhelm a database (combinatorial diversity among other factors). But certain plants go by the x names and the current policy leads to their exclusion or (no improvement really in my mind) their reassignment as synonyms for cultivar names like "Dwarf", along with other plants which are clearly different but cannot be excluded because that name could theoretically apply to almost anything small.

In all fairness, not being an expert on names, I seriously doubt there is an aloe cultivar called "Dwarf". And if there was one, there would be a hundred. The point of the name as I understood it on the SMG page was that the plant looked like a dwarf arborescens (which it most certainly does until it flowers).... the dwarfness has little meaning outside that context. The plant is a giant relative to humilis (the other parent) and could just as well be called "Giant" with very little stretching of the imagination.

Just sayin', not expecting any changes to the database. The names you are excluding are particularly useful for succulent plants. Among the aloes for example the features present in various hybrids are informative about the species. I am happy to support whatever you decide, of course, but there will be gaps and weird reassignments as a result.
Name: Kent Pfeiffer
Southeast Nebraska (Zone 5b)
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KentPfeiffer
Aug 25, 2016 7:01 AM CST

Plants Admin

The "gaps and weird reassignments" are not a result of the structure of the database. They are, rather, a result of the fact that too many horticulturalists these days either don't understand or are simply not inclined to follow the International Code of Nomenclature. Instead, they seem to prefer to make up pseudo-scientific names for their plants, which appears to be a marketing strategy more than anything else.
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Aug 25, 2016 10:39 AM CST
The gaps and weird reassignments are a result of not accepting x hybrid names which are the standard way of referring to certain plants that have been known to cultivation for quite some time almost exclusively under those names. When you exclude the most useful name to describe a given plant, you invite the use of the pseudo-scientific or "Random Cultivar" names which have been invented for marketing or simply out of ignorance. Of which I would consider Aloe "Dwarf" an example, for reasons elaborated above.

People who grow aloes call this hybrid spinosissima, not "Dwarf". Putting spinosissima as a synonym for a made-up "Random Cultivar" name in the database here only invites misidentification, especially when other unrelated plants are added to the mix of images and cannot be excluded because the new name is so random. Subordinating spinosissima has the net effect of enshrining and elevating a "Random Cultivar" name above the one name which is used almost all the time to describe the plant, in actual reality. I suppose that is the cost of consistency regarding the inclusion of hybrids in the database (a worthy goal in its own right).
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Aug 25, 2016 11:43 AM (+)]
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Name: Zuzu
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zuzu
Aug 25, 2016 1:03 PM CST

Plants Admin

I'm not happy with the "random cultivar" name of 'Dwarf' either, but it is the cultivar name used in commerce. That's why I wanted to rename the entry Aloe 'Spinosissima.' It may look odd to you when it's enclosed in single quotes, but the random species names, such as Aloe x spinosissima, look equally odd to someone wishing to construct a database grounded in taxonomic databases. Hybrid taxa are subject to certain rules for naming. When hybridizers or growers invent species names that will not be treated as accepted species names in taxonomic databases, they might as well be assigning those names as the cultivar names of the plants.
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Aug 25, 2016 1:23 PM CST
Where do you see "Dwarf" used as the cultivar name for spinosissima in commerce, outside the San Marcos Growers page? Just "Dwarf", not "Blue Dwarf" or all the other kinds of dwarves. I see the word misused there where it should be lower-case as a descriptor applied to arborescens, which itself is an error because the flowers do not match. You can take that as (perhaps) Randy Baldwin's taxonomic error (his site is amazingly complete and correct, so I understand why it might be used as a reference). I have explained the rationale for this. The plant is a dwarf not a "Dwarf" and definitely not arborescens.

The problem with the internet is sometimes the echo factor overwhelms real life usage. I was seeing things all over the place that people had copied from DG when their database was no longer being maintained, and there is a very real echo factor for misinformation on the web.

Maybe if I restate the original point a different way, my thinking will be more clear. Say you are faced with two names you view as illegitimate (not grounded in taxonomic databases) or made up, like spinosissima or "Dwarf". Which do you choose to identify a plant in the database, the one that 99% of people use or the one that a single web site uses? In my mind the problem is in the promotion of an irrelevant (or at best nonspecific) "Random Cultivar" name over an equally invalid one which has actual utility. And doing this promotion because of very good reasons, and in a very consistent way. That's not the point at all.

If you want to slap quotes on "Spinosissima" then at least you would be favoring specificity. It would be a naming error, but it would be useful, which makes it a better error than the alternative, perhaps. The other kind of error is just noise, in the big picture, if you ask me.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Aug 25, 2016 1:58 PM (+)]
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Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
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zuzu
Aug 25, 2016 1:52 PM CST

Plants Admin

Seriously? Which do I prefer -- an "irrelevant" random cultivar name or an "equally invalid one"? I personally prefer to use neither. My own choice would be to delete the entire entry and move the photos to the generic entry. They could be identified as Aloe x spinosissima in the photo captions.
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Aug 25, 2016 2:02 PM CST
That was my original suggestion. With that change the so-called "weird reassignment" would become a gap, which is better from the standpoint of consistency and specificity. Whatever you decide. Thank you for allowing me to express my opinion. With my own photos I have been representing the hybrids which don't have their own entries on the genus (parent) pages, where they can be useful with a caption.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Aug 25, 2016 2:09 PM (+)]
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Name: Kent Pfeiffer
Southeast Nebraska (Zone 5b)
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KentPfeiffer
Aug 25, 2016 2:02 PM CST

Plants Admin

zuzu said:I personally prefer to use neither. My own choice would be to delete the entire entry and move the photos to the generic entry. They could be identified as Aloe x spinosissima in the photo captions.


Great idea! The International Code of Nomenclature was developed long ago to (in part) address precisely these kinds of issues and the rules aren't that difficult to comprehend. For those that don't want to follow them, this seems like the best solution.

Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
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zuzu
Aug 25, 2016 2:18 PM CST

Plants Admin

The photos have been moved and the entry has been deleted. Smiling
Name: Leslieray Hurlburt
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HamiltonSquare
Aug 25, 2016 5:09 PM CST
I'm happy to see this discussed with an appropriate and useful solution for the many hybrid names out there that now may have, albeit generic, a gap-less place in the database without improper nomenclatural entries being devised. You guys rock! I tip my hat to you.
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