En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

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
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
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

Century plant dying after bloom
August 12, 2007 - My century plant is so tall that it is up to the top of the telephone pole top lines that carry our streets electric. I was wanting to know if you knew if I cut the stock off would it save the plant ...
view the full question and answer

20 years to bloom
May 02, 2007 - My girlfriend and i have come up with an interesting question, we were wondering if there is a plant in existance that takes over 20 years to bloom, and how many different kinds (if any) there are? We...
view the full question and answer

What caused purple heartwood in my Tuliptree?
June 15, 2009 - My Tulip tree was hit by lightning and all bark from the base of the tree up to 50 feet was blown off. The tree also sustained a significant crack through the trunk. When the tree was cut down, we...
view the full question and answer

Plants named for Thomas Drummond
February 09, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Please send list of plants discovered and named for Thomas Drummond.
view the full question and answer

Weak stems on asters and ironweed from Woodbridge ON
June 06, 2012 - My question is in regards to plants flopping over. My smooth asters and ironweeds never seem to have strong stems. Is because the soil is too fertile or maybe too shallow?
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center