Contact Us Host an Event 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

Use of native non-vascular plants from Pisgah Forest NC
February 11, 2011 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Some of the smartest native plants around to use as horticultural choices don't require any chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides; tolerate extreme weather including ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on air purification
September 14, 2005 - What plant purifies the air?
view the full question and answer

Seeds of Castilleja purpurea
April 12, 2012 - The seed photo for Castilleja purpurea is incorrect; seeds are black and poppyseed size.
view the full question and answer

Why is water used for plants.
February 19, 2008 - Why is water the most popular thing for watering plants if is so plain?
view the full question and answer

Are leaf margins of Chilopsis linearis toothed from Austin
December 22, 2013 - Are the leaf margins of Chilopsis linearis, Desert Willow, smooth or toothed? The NPIN descrip says willow-like. Most willows have toothed leaf margins. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

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