Explore Plants

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 

Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - June 14, 2010

From: New York City, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: General Botany
Title: Wild Native Hybrids and Cultivars?
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

It is my understanding that hybrids can occur with or without human intervention whereas cultivars always involve human intervention. Strictly speaking does this mean native wildflowers can never be cultivars but may be hybrids if human intervention does not occur?

ANSWER:

Hybrids are the offspring of crosses between two different species in the same genus or, rarely, two species in different genera.  Most hybrids are sterile and unable to sexually reproduce, though many spread very successfully through vegetative means, e.g., rhizomes, stolon, bulbs, etc.  Though many hybrids are produced by intentional means by man, naturally hybrids arising in the wild are also common.  Some hybrids, both natural and man-bred, are capable of sexual reproduction

Cultivars may be hybrids of natural or man-made origin or they may simply be naturally-occurring species that has been singled out for horticultural reasons.  A cultivar is nothing more than a plant that has been selected and propagated for some desirable characteristic (prettier flowers, more compact growth habit, tastier fruit, higher fruit yield, etc.) and given a cultivar name.

The term, cultivar, is a portmanteau of cultivated variety.  The term was coined early in the 20th century to differentiate between cultivated varieties of garden plants and botanical varieties which are always of wild origin. 

So a native wildflower that has been selected for some desirable horticultural characteristic and given an official cultivar name is indeed an example of how a wild plant can become a cultivar with no more intervention than cultivation and naming.

 

More General Botany Questions

What are the native plants in Kerrville, Texas?
May 22, 2013 - What are the native plants in Kerrville, Texas?
view the full question and answer

Least common flower color
June 14, 2008 - What is the least common flower color in the world?
view the full question and answer

Determining male/female wax myrtles
March 06, 2009 - We are planning to use Wax Myrtle as a screen plant, and want to be sure that we are successful in having berries for the birds. We have read that berries are only on the female plants. When we aske...
view the full question and answer

White and red Turk's cap and possible crossing
September 18, 2013 - I have had some white Turk's cap for several years. This year, some red Turk's cap has appeared among it. I have the red in another location. Will the red become dominant if I leave it among the whi...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on aceae
March 21, 2005 - How is the family suffix "-aceae", as in Asteraceae, pronounced? I find disagreeing claims in my searches- "ay-see-ee" and "ay-see-ay" seem to be the most common, but I've also seen just "ay-...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.