Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

Ruffly foliage on native lantana
November 05, 2013 - A native lantana in my front yard has developed ruffly foliage on one stem. It looks like miniature broccoli. What can this be?
view the full question and answer

Gardening books for Austin and Central Texas
June 09, 2008 - Hi, I'm looking for a book for my wife. She is a beginning gardener here in Austin. Do you know of an ideal book or two that covers vegetable gardening and gardening in general in Austin/Central Tex...
view the full question and answer

Classes for a nature lover in Frisco TX
August 16, 2009 - I have a question which I don't think is available in this website. I love plants & flowers,trees etc- just like you, I've only studied till my higher secondary school; now would love to study as we...
view the full question and answer

Thickness of liquid when growing plants
February 09, 2008 - Q: Does the thickness of liquid matter when growing plants?
view the full question and answer

Growth on top of Echinacea purpurea (Eastern purple coneflower)
July 03, 2012 - I grow purple coneflowers in my garden. ONE plant has something growing on the top of each cone. I would like to know what it is but I don't see how I can add a photo to this post.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.