So how does Linnæus’ two-name system work? It’s actually very simple – just like Fred Smith, though in Linnæus’ system it would be written Smith fred.
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Understanding Horticulture Terminology
The first part of the name – Taxus – is the plant’s Genus and always starts with a capital letter. The second name – baccata – identifies its species.
Understanding Horticulture Terminology: Cultivars
If the plant is a cultivar, it is identified by the addition of a third part to its name. For example, take Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’: Genus = Lavandula; species = angustifolia; cultivar = ‘Hidcote’. The cultivar is generally in the vernacular language but there are exceptions like Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea’. Whatever the language, it is always bounded by single quotation marks.
Understanding Horticulture Terminology: Hybrids
Hybrids are identified as such by that ‘x’ in their name. So, botanically, Lavender Richard Gray is known as: Lavandula x chaytoriae ‘Richard Gray’. The background to the plant’s development will help explain how the name was derived…
In the mid-1980s, the plant breeders at Kew (among others elsewhere) were crossing the ever- trustworthy Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender) with Lavandula lanata (Woolly Lavender), a shrubby native of southern Spain, renowned for the silver hairs on its leaves. This has long been a popular pairing among Lavender breeders and all resulting offspring carry the name Lavandula x chaytoriae – ‘chaytoriae’ honours Miss Dorothy A, Chaytor (1912-2003), a renowned lavender expert who wrote a famous monograph on lavender in 1937.
However, the results of cross-fertilising the same two species are not uniform – they do not always run true. And this happened at Kew. Fortunately, Brian Halliwell (The Assistant Curator and Chelsea Judge) spotted that one of the seedlings displayed atypical and potentially attractive characteristics. The seedling was isolated and nurtured to adulthood when its early promise was displayed for all to see. Brian, as the discoverer of this distinctive new lavender, gained the right to name it and chose to recognise a member of his staff, Richard Gray. In effect, therefore, Lavandula × chaytoriae ‘Richard Gray’ is both a hybrid (Lavandula × chaytoriae) and a cultivar (‘Richard Gray’). While the cross-fertilisation was deliberate human intervention, ‘Richard Gray’ was the pure chance of nature. Incidentally, to ensure all our Richard Grays do grow true, they are all propagated from cuttings.
In our next post we’ll show the full breadth of Linnæus’ system…