Hosta naming conventions

caliloo(z6/7)January 1, 2013

A hosta by any other name...

might still smell as sweet...

but as long as we are using names, we might just as well use them correctly. I recently made some comments involving genus, species, and cultivars... and people who have negative flashbacks about tenth grade Biology glazed over a little,

So at the risk of sounding like that uptight ninth grade English teacher we didn't like... here's a quick primer on hosta naming. I know this is "old hat" for many of you - you are dismissed!

All the plants we call hostas fall into one category in the system of biological nomenclature. The whole group is a "Genus" - the Genus Hosta.

In nature, groups of plants develop and grow in natural populations. Through variations and selections, populations in different areas will evolve into different identifiable populations. They are all still hostas, but one type of identifiable hostas might be growing on a Korean island and evolve differently from a population of hostas growing on a mountain in China. We call these naturally occuring populations "Species."

As hostas are domesticated, occasional departures from the species are found. The new plant might be a hybrid of two or more species due to pollination of a flower and seed setting, or it might be a mutation (sport). That plant doesn't automatically become its own species. It is a specially cultivated plant... and we call it a "Cultivar."

Using the traditional horticultural naming process, we can just call a plant a "Hosta" if all we care about is that it belongs to the genus. So... Hosta

If we wish to give more information... and who wouldn't want to be more precise? ... we use a second word. If a plant is a hosta and it is a member of one of the species, then we would name it by using two words... first the genus, which is capitalized, followed by the species name in lower case... note that we don't use any punctuation for this plant. So... Hosta sieboldii Hosta longipes Hosta laevigata

Basically, you could go out "in the wild" and find populations of those hostas growing without the intervention of gardeners.

When we select and cultivate a particular hosta, we create a cultivar. We indicate that it is a cultivar by stating the genus (capitalized) and the name of the cultivar (capitalized and in single quotation marks.) So... Hosta 'Little Doll' Hosta 'Xela'

Once in a while, you'll see a hosta cultivar name that tells you it was selected or developed from a particular species... so the name has three words... the genus (capitalized), the species (not capitalized) and the cultivar name (capitalized and in single quotation marks) This seems to be falling out of fashion, and people seem to be ignoring Zilis' effort in the Handbood to encourage more of it, but he lists lots of these in his index. So... Hosta sieboldiana 'Borwick Beauty' (Zilis is the only one I know who indicates the species on this one... everybody else seems to just call it H. 'Borwick Beauty.") Hosta...

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