00422thumb
Most cultivars need to be cloned.

A plant ‘variety’ is a group within a species that exhibits distinguishing characteristics. A ‘cultivar’ is simply a cultivated variety. The first five letters of ‘cultivated’ merged with the first three letters of ‘variety’ to form the word ‘cultivar’. A variety should be self perpetuating to some degree, and may be naturally occurring. A cultivar perpetuates by unnatural means, and would go extinct otherwise.

Of course, the distinction between variety and cultivar is not always so obvious. Varieties of nasturtium were selected from plants that displayed desirable qualities. Seed of these varieties grows into plants that display the same qualities. However, without continued selection, some varieties eventually revert to a more feral state in only a few generation. They are not truly self perpetuating.

Most hybrid tomatoes are unable to perpetuate themselves naturally. Their seed is either not viable, or is very genetically variable. Genetically variable seed grows into plants that are very unlikely to produce fruit that is comparable to that which produced their own seed. Nonetheless, hybrid tomatoes grown from original (primary generation) seed are generally varieties rather than cultivars.

The distinction might be that they grow from seed. A plant that is cloned rather than grown from seed is a cultivar. Cloned plants can be grown from cutting, layering or grafting onto understock, but are genetically identical to the original. Some rare camellias grown now are genetically identical copies of original cultivars that were developed centuries ago. Their seed would not be the same.

Some cultivars developed from selective breeding. Others were random but appealingly distinctive plants in the wild or even in landscapes. Many originated as ‘sports’, which are mutant growths of otherwise normal plants. For example, some plants, on rare occasion, produce stems with variegated foliage. Cuttings taken from such variegated stems became popular variegated cultivars.

Seed from a variegated cultivar is very unlikely to produce more variegated plants.

6 thoughts on “Cultivar Is A Cultivated Variety

    1. Unfortunately, the terms are getting to be rather meaningless. Rather than explain what ‘cultivar’ means, I am more likely to use the term ‘garden variety’, for those that were selected from wild species for home gardening. Species names are being phased out so that plants are know by genus and cultivar.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s