Identifying cultivars and species

April 9, 2009

Categories: Bulb Information, Growing Daffodils

Download PDF
Hi everyone,
When I returned to daffodils as an adult I bought a packet of bulbs from a garden centre. The following spring I took some to the local show and asked if anyone could identify the lovely 2Y-Y that I had. Without hesitation Len Chambers identified the bulb as St Keverne.
As I became more experienced with daffodils I realised that the bulbs I had purchased were a selection of reject seedlings. The flower in question was only similar to St Keverne but not that cultivar.
When people ask us to identify bulbs from a picture on Daffnet or, for that matter, at a show I would always be reluctant to be sure that I had a correct name. We all know that growing conditions can affect the appearance of a flower.
I’m also hesitant about identifying older cultivars found in a paddock… Are they an older named variety? Are they just a reject seedling or have they come from open pollinated flowers in the naturalised patch?
I have a similar question about supposed sports of bulbs. Is it really a sport, or has a seed dropped on top of the cultivar and grown to flowring size appearing to be part of the original bulb clump?
I am pleased James got to Blanchard’s book. I hunted the house for my copy tonight and suspect I have loaned it to someone. John admits mistakes in the book which he has corrected through the AGS bulletins but I would think his descriptions of the two species in question should be fairly definitive.
Here I go back to my original premise. Apart from a few people, especially those who have seen the relative species in the wild, how can we be sure that what we grow as panizzianus is actually that species? We must also remember to allow for natural variation in the flowers. If seed is collected in the wild can we be sure that a pollinated ant hasn’t been to the flower first.
Was the flower at the RHS pachybolbus? Was it panizzianus? Was it an interspecies hybrid? At what stage of development was it? Can we really tell from a photo? Did the bulb come from a reliable source or from someone who thought it looked like pachybolbus and just gave it that name?
In England last year I commented to John Blanchard that a lot of new species were being named. He gave a wry smile and commented “Well you’ve got to do something to get your doctorate.”
Its a shame its spring. You haven’t got time to sit down and ponder these deep questions I have asked.
Keep smiling

3 responses to “Identifying cultivars and species”

  1. Loyce McKenzie, Mississippi Loyce McKenzie says:

    I’ve enjoyed this discussion, but do not know enough about the species involved to appreciate the nuances.
    Looking at it from a different point of view, one thing is clear: in our shows, we ought to be very, very careful about saying something is “NOT” something. Sometimes we know; sometimes we suspect. But this letter of David’s points to the inescapable fact that the individual, in a show, most likely to be the victim of quick-to-call-misnnamed–is the newcomer, who hasn’t begun to buy his or her bulbs from more reliable sources– reliable about correct names.
    Better to award a ribbon wrongly once in awhile than to speak too forcefully and lose forever a potential daffodil fan.
    Loyce McKenzie

  2. Bill Lee says:

    In a message dated 4/9/2009 8:13:45 AM Eastern Standard Time,  title= writes:

    Better to award a ribbon wrongly once in awhile than to speak too
    forcefully and lose forever a potential
    daffodil fan.

    Even more important, Loyce, I think is for the veterans to keep a watch when newbies come to the show. They can help identify cultivars for the newcomer and teach them a thing or two. Then the entries are not only not wrong, but the newcomer has learned something new and discovered a group of people who know a thing or two.
    Bill Lee

  3. Debbie Green says:

    I wouldn’t presume to try to identify anyone else’s daffodils, but I am curious about the state of the art/science of doing so.  I am taking a “Spring Flora” class at a local college and the instructor talked a little bit about use of DNA as the definitive tool over plant morphology, which I don’t think I’ve seen anything about on Daffnet (apologies if I’ve missed it!).  Is this something that could become useful in the daffodil world at some point or is it not likely to resolve the kinds of questions discussed here?  I realize it is extremely expensive and not something that could be used on a moments notice, but over the long term perhaps?

    Debbie in Western NC mountains with daffs looking pretty battered by recent high winds and cold weather