Plant Cultivars versus Varieties

October 19, 2013 in Gardening by Christine

Differences Between Plant Cultivars and Varieties

Grevillea banksii.jpgPlant cultivars and varieties are confusing to people. It is a fairly simple but first we will get into a bit of background on how plants are given their botanical titles. Firstly, all plants have a name made up of two parts (binomial) – the genus to which the species belongs identified with the first part, and the second identifying the species within the genus.
As an example the Royal Grevillea has a binomial name of Grevillea victoriae. This identifies it as belonging to the genus Grevillea, with the term “victoriae” identifying the particular species within the genus. When talking about cultivars and varieties it sometimes happens that the name of a plant may require up to three names – the genus, the species, and the subspecies (cultivar or variety).  As in the example above the plant may be also recognised with Grevillea victoriae var. nivalis – which indicates that this particular variety has slight differences from the description of the original species.

Put in the simplest of terms:
The cultivar name is used to differentiate a particular species that was deliberately cultivated by humans.
A plant that sprouted and grew in the wild is referred to as a variety.

These are the naming conventions used for creating a plant title:

Variety names are:

  • Preceded by var. (abbreviation for variety)
  • Not in quotes
  • In latin (sometimes used to describe a unique characteristic, or a name)

Cultivar names are:

  • Put in single quotes
  • Capitalised
  • Written in English and can be just about anything that either describes the characteristics of the plant – or it could be just a name

Some common examples of cultivar names we may all be familiar with are “Granny Smith” and “Red Delicious” – two popular species of apples.

Another example of some cultivar names of tomatoes are “Apollo” and “Roma”.

We can only expect to see more and more names for cultivars cropping up as nurseries strive to either deliver variety in appearance, or create strains of plants that are easier to harvest, look attractive on the supermarket shelves, and are possibly more resistant to disease and pests. So now I hope you understand the difference between a cultivar and a variety.

Decadent Daylilies

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