Variety Conservation Group

Copyright 2012. Laurence C. Hatch. All Rights Reserved.
VarCon™ is a trademarked name and is managed by the New Ornamentals Society (

 Resource Links                                                                                                             
Cultivated Plant Code (International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants) -
Heirloom Roses (popular source for old garden cultivars) -
Heirloom Seeds (1400 non-hybrid seed strains) -
International Cultivar Registration Authorities (ICRA) (ISHS. These experts catalog old cultivars and can assist in most genera) -
New Ornamentals Society (eneyclopedia of both new and old cultivars, many described for the first time in decades) -
North American Plant Collections Consortium -
Old House Gardens (Heirloom bulb cultivar conservation project, many rare clones of Tulipa, Narcissus, Hyacinthus, etc.) -
Plant Heritage (The National Council for Conservation of Plants and Gardens, UK. They have a journal and newsletter) -
Tomato Bob (700 heirloom veggies, herbs, flowers) -
Tomato Fest (600 cultivars of heirloom tomatoes) -
Victory Seeds (rare, open-pollinated, and heirloom seeds) -

 Mission Statement                                                              

The Variety Conservation Group (VarCon) is devoted to the conservation and study of rare and endangered horticultural varieties (cultivars) with specific focus on ornamental plants of North American origin and introduction.  The initial concentration of the group will be woody plants, followed by the addition of hardy herbaceous perennials amnd bulbs.


VarCon™ was started in 2006 by Laurence Hatch, Director of the New Ornamentals Society and his since been managed by society members.

The New Ornamentals Reference Library (NORL), formerly called the New Ornamentals Database (NOD), now includes substantial research on the history and descriptions of old, rare, and endangered cultivars from around the world. New research is funded by subscribtions to the NORL as well as members with self-funded research projects. Recently, the society implemented expansion of the reference files to include bulbs. A sample of our Hyacinthus encyclopedia follows, integrating modern (2000-2012) cultivars with older cultivars dating back to 1562, all highlighted in general corolla colors on a black background. Historical catalog, article, and advertisement scans are included.

Occasionally our NORL research results in the rediscovery of cultivars not found in modern or traditional literature because we go back to primary documents. In our recent study of more than 162 Aucuba cultivars we found the generally unknown 'Bruantii' (sample scan below), 'Youngii', 'Undulata', 'Macrodontha', 'Longifolia Dentata Marmorata', and 'Walthamensis'. All of these are thought to be lost from the worldwide trade. With the newly unearthed descriptions, translations, and plates we have some hope that material can be found and matched.

 Project Goals                                                           

1. Identification and status coding of rare and endangered cultivars, mainly those of North American origin. One chart is shown below.

2. Notification and education of collection holders about the rarity of specific cultivars. Many owners and growers of rare cultivars do not know their true status and are very willing to conserve and propagate them if politely informed by a knowledgeable expert. We hope to prevent premature removal of old cultivars from the trade and older collection grounds.

3. Propagation assistance for rare and endangered cultivars, including distribution to secure, stable collections
. We will attempt to link and enhance communication among germplasm holders and persons willing to propagate, sell, or maintain material.

4. Study of the history and documentation of rare and endangered cultivars. This includes INCA (Internet Nursery Catalog Archive) which archives digital nursery catalogs, collection inventory lists, acadmeic and popular articles, and ads for study by scholars.
The NORL project to development very large cultivar encyclopedia in more than 80 genera, these compilations exceeding leading reference manuals and guides, continue each year.

5. Identification and clarification of confused, rare cultivars, leading to redistribution of original clones and characterization of known imposter clones. We place high value on old stock traceable directly to the originator or originating nursery as a valuable benchmark on original clone taxonomy.

 Supporting VarCon™                                                            

Financial support of VarCon is managed via the New Ornamentals Society. Subscribing to our reference library at the NORL 2 level goes directly to VarCon and other research projects on ornamentals history and documentation..

If you wish to assist with propagation or in-ground conservation of rare cultivars please write us at with a summary of your interests and qualifications. We are especially eager to find partners who can root or graft rare plants who are willing to share their extra stock with other gardens and collectors in North America, donating these services as volunteers to the project.

 Special Terminology in Cultivar Taxonomy                      

Botanical form (f.) - a wild-occuring variation within a species, usually distinquished by single trait or continuum of a character status such as corolla color (f. rosea), habit (f. pendula), leaf shape (f. angustifolia), leaf size (f. macrophylla), fruit size (f. microcarpa), fruit color (f. xanthocarpa), etc. These traits are often based on a single gene mutation, frequently a recessive gene which is expressed occasionally in wild populations. The garden-created or cultigenic version of these variations is usually treated as a Cultivar Group, grex, strain, and other concepts. Be aware that the botanical form was used in literature for garden clones (including sports from Japanese gardens) before L.H. Bailey created the rank of Cultivar. Thus some published formae , especially woody plants named by Alfred Rehder are now correctly considered cultivar or cultivar groups because they did not originate in the wild. So when is a variation (let's say a pink-flowered strain or weeping tree) really a botanical form versus a cultivar or cultivar group? Red-bracted dogwoods (Cornus florida f. rubra) were regularly found in the wild so the botanical or wild-created rank seems best. The same frequency of wild appearance is true of double-flowering (f. pluribracteata) and gold-fruited dogwoods (f. xanthocarpa). Weeping dogwoods came once or twice so we use 'Pendula' or Pendula Group instead f. pendula there. Weeping beeches (Fagus sylvatica f. pendula) have been found in the wild perhaps less than a dozen times. Is that regular enough to be called a form or not? You decide. 

Imposter clone - a genotype or stock line clearly differing the from originator's introduction (or described intent in literature), resulting from mis-naming in the trade and gardens. Imposters often originate from 1) labeling errors, 2) database errors, 3) sale of originally monoclonal cultivars as seedlings, 4) genetic decline or partial reversion over time, 5) mutation of stock, and 6) propagation changes to the genotype or phenotype from such phenomena as cultivariancy and chimera shift. Not all imposter clones are ornamentally inferior to the original but many are. We are alarmed at nurseries and even well-known plant societies which offer named, clearly monoclonal cultivars in seedling or seed form such as 'Silver Heart Seedlings' or allowing seed list distribution of named cultivars which only partially come true. Imposter clones, especially those of taxonomic or ornamental interest should be given new, vernacular cultivar names and be characterized by detailed DNA and taxonomic documentation.

Monoclonal cultivar - a cultivar represented in the trade and gardens by a single, generally uniform clone, which is typical the originator's original choice of scion or cutting stock. 

Original clone - the genotype or stock line traceable or compatible with the first, earliest introduction of the cultivated variety.

Polyclonal cultivar - a cultivar represented in the trade and gardens by two or more distinct, definable clones. One of them may be the original clone (if originally monoclonal) but some originations consist of similar seedlings and thus a culitvar may be polyclonal from the start. Before the modern era of easy rooting and tissue culture, nurserymen often selected a group of similar mutations and used these different clones (cuttings, layers, or grafted scions) as a single cultivar name. In other cases, cultivars with are polyclonal today came from a single, original clone but has been corrupted by subsequent imposter clones. In some instances, polyclonal cultivars are treated as Cultivar Groups and in other cases they are roughly the taxonomic equivalent of botanical taxa such as a formae (forms or f.) and botanical varieties (var.)

 Missing or Confused Cultivars                                           

We have decided to list missing or "presumed extinct" cultivars separate from the threatened list going forward. We hope to emphasize plants likely to exist somewhere if informed cultivar detectives make a solid effort. Please write us at with any leads you may have.

Chamaecyparis pisifera (Plumosa Group) or C. obtusa 'Fulleri' ('Fullerii) (MC-2012-001)

This clone was selected as a sport of 'Plumosa Aurea' by Andrew Fuller of Ridgewood, NJ in the late 1890's as being more elegant in outline and richer gold in both summer and winter. It was sold by P.J. Berckmans of Fruitland Nursery, Augusta, GA about 1898 and also by Parsons Nursery of NY about that time. While it was known to winter kill in 1898 and 1899 in the north, there is some chance it could still exist in such places as Long Island (where Parsons built many gardens) and certainly the warm haunts of Georgia where the Augusta National Course was formed around the Fruitland operation. It has not been heard of since 1900 when published in the March 1900 issue of Gardening Magazine (US). The plant in the photo there was said to have already been killed in the winter. Since the plant grown as 'Plumosa Aurea' is always considered a Chamaecyparis pisifera, we believe the connection to C. obtusa, especially when viewing the image, is incorrect. The cultivars of these two species were placed under both species names after their introduction from Europe and Asia.

The Glenmore conifers (MC-2012-002)
First visit this Arnoldia paper for background info:
Robert More established his Glenmore Arboretum in Buffalo Creek, CO, naming a good number of unique mutations, some of which are world famous under the 'Glenmore' name,  but many are unheard of today, never reaching the trade. While we do not have hard photographic evidence, friends from Colorado tell us there is no remaining conifer garden in that original area. We would however like to find more detailed information and perhaps an opportunity to interview residents of the area who might have met Mr. More. Obviously, any old conifers in that general area could be examined to determine if they might be lost material. This could be a fascinating project for someone living or traveling to this area.

Cornus florida f. rubra 'Belmont Pink' (MC-2012-003)
This clone with pale pink bracts was found around the well-developed area in Belmont, Long Island, NY and has not been reported since 1930 or so. Henry Hicks of the famous Hicks Nursery in Westbury named it about 1930. As a young resident of Long Island c. 1978 your editor (L. Hatch) combed the streets of Belmont NY one spring looking for interesting pink-bracted dogwoods but found nothing of that description, having read Dr. Wyman's and Dr. Howard's comments on this lost clone. The research in 1978 was limited in time and scope so it could be there or even somewhere the Hick's old Westbury operation. Anyone willing to give this a more determined look?

Platycladus orientalis Berckman clones (MC-2012-004)

J.P. Berckmans of Fruitland Nursery in Augusta, GA named three golden seedlings of 'Semperaurescens' ('Semperaurea')  before 1902. One was dense and dwarf, sold as 'Aurea Nana'. Unfortunately that name was already in use for another clone in Europe (a smaller form of the Aurea Group aka 'Aurea')  and is what taxonomists call a "later homonym"; a newer name which can be accepted because of confusion with it's original, first published meaning. This plant was given the common name Berckman's Golden Biota and is thus correctly called 'Berckmans Golden' today. His second seedling was a bit larger, looser, more erect, and had even more conspicuous red winter colors when grown in cold climates. He listed it separately in ads and his articles, calling it 'Conspicua'. Most authors including the influential denOuden and Boom in their 1965 Manual of Cultivated Conifers considered Berckmans Golden arborvitae to be correctly named as 'Conspicua', not knowing of it's separate origin and clearly stated different traits.  Most conifer authors since have repeated this mistake, doubtless because they did not have access to American periodicals and catalogs in Europe or from our shores did not go original research. (We at the New Ornamentals Society are always challenging literature assumptions and are reguarly overturning old errors with evidence from old papers and catalogs). Since then, perhaps even earlier than 1965,  the dwarfer, smaller 'Berckmans Golden' has been merged or lumped with 'Conspicua', causing nursery and collection material to be renamed and confused. Berckmans also had a third more narrow goldie he called 'Aurea Pyramidalis'. This is not in the US trade under this name (we think) but may exist still in Europe as the post-1959 Latin name 'Pyramidalis Aurea'; which cannot be linked to nor separated from the Fruitland seedling. No one in Europe is sure of the 'Pyramidalis Aurea' origin so an American Georgia origin is possible, given that his other material made it there and remains popular today. This history includes scans of Berckman's articles and ads appearing in PINETUM NOVUM Platycladus published in August 2012 by the New Ornmanetals Society. It is available by subscription to our NORL service at Old material of all three clones requires documentation. We can guess on some old material in southeastern US cemetaries, parks, and estates but much more work is needed. Anyone interested in propaging very old plants likely from the Berckman era can contact us for location data.

Hydrangea macrophylla (Hortensia Group) 'Nivalis' (MC-2012-005)
While there are some Japanese-found variegated leaf hortensias, this European find with a bold, creamy-white central chimera is thought to be long lost, especially under this name. Could it be hiding somewhere in an old garden or forgotten nursery row?

Hibiscus 'Meehans Mallow Marvels' (MC-2012-006)
The famous Meehan Nursery of Pennsylvania, and particularly their breeder Ernest Hemming, was the first we believe to crossbreed the various hardy Hibiscus species for both flower traits and incised leaf shape. We sometimes think our modern maple-leaved and cut-leaved clones from the Flemings and others are unique or recently breakthroughts. It turns out this seed strain from Meehan existed back in 1903 but was not sold in the trade until about 1907. Hibiscus coccineus provided the narrow, cut-bladed influence on this variable group. When bred to H. moscheutos with a wide, ovate leaf, a large number of intermediate sizes and shapes appeared, as shown in this scanned plate from the August 1911 issue of Meehan's Garden Bulletin. White, pink, red, and scarlet substrains or color forms were offered in their 1907 adverts. Does anyone know of old stock which might have come from this seed? Old clumps of these hybrids probably do not survive intact (without division) for more than 20-30 years to our knowledge - or could they?

Liquidambar styraciflua 'Longworthii' (MC-2012-007)
The May 1868 issue of American Agriculturist published this plate of a curious sweet gum mutation, mainly crowded, 3-lobed, star-like, narrow-angled leaves we think, found by Mr. Joseph Longworth of Cinncinati OH and moved to his grounds. The name Longworthii was suggested in the original paper but subsequent literature does not record this plant being propagated or entering the trade. Given the wealth and prominent status of the Longworth family in that part of Ohio, we suspect this old mutation might exist somewhere on a former estate or land owned by the Longworth family or elsewhere in an old Cincinnati park or nursery. It just might exist again if someone goes looking for a wierd sweet gum shaped like this. Joseph's father Nicholas is widely known as the Father of the American Wine Industry.

Ulmus pumila 'Pendula' ex Meyer via China PI40507 (MC-2012-008)
This clone was introduced by Frank Meyer to the US as shown on the USDA plant inventory record of 1916 above. While there are a few 'Pendula' plants listed in collections today (ie. Longenecker Gardens at the University of Wisconsin), we are not sure they are from the Chinese-Meyer clone. Plants under this name do not seem to be as torulose or arching as Meyer's photo and are more regular, straight-stemmed mounds. Meyer's clone seems to be either missing or confused with other material.

 Saved, Found, and Recovered Cultivars                                

These will be our good news, success stories.

Cercis glabra 'Celestial Plum' at the Charles R. Keith Arboretum in 2010.

Cercis glabra (yunnanensis) 'Celestial Plum'
Following his untimely passing, JC Raulston’s named clone could not be identified among living collections in 2007 including his own Cercis Collection at the arboretum where it originated. The staff there at the NC State Arboretum (now the JC Raulston Arboretum) had no plants of this name in the computer nor on the grounds; though one C. yunnanenis (C glabra) of a dark plum-rose color existed but merely labeled as the species C. yunnanensis.  It was subsequently determined that the clone was still in propagation by two NC nurseries though not then advertised.  A small plant also appears in the Charles R., Keith Arboretum of Chapel Hill, NC. It has since been replanted at JCRA in Raleigh. Mailorder growers today include Meadowbrook Nurseries ( A browser search turns up other growers which do not ship.

Juniperus chinensis (Japonica Group) 'Sylvestris'
This more plumose, more divergent (juvenile) variant on J.c. Japonica Group (aka 'Japonica') was thought to be lost, at least in North America. These three very healthy examples turned up in a spot at the Morris Arboretum but had not been reported by conifer collectors or juniper experts in recent decades. People copying old conifer books mentioned it in modern times but no one seemed to actually have seen it or a source thereof!  It is also allied to 'Oblonga' which may in fact be the correct name for it.

 Chart of Threatened Woody Plant Cultivars                     

Since 2006, the society has used these codes to label the status of old, rare, or endangered clones.

Living Specimens

These values primarily reflect records of public gardens since it is nearly impossible to have knowledge of all private collections

L0 – none known – possibly extinct

L5 – less than 5 living specimens reported worldwide

L5 (country) – less than 5 living specimens reported in (country)

L10 – less than 10 living specimens reported worldwide

L10 (country) – less than 10 living specimens reported in (country)

Propagating Nurseries

P0 – no commercial nursery sources known worldwide

P0 (country) – no commercial nursery sources known in (country)

P5 – less than 5 commercial nursery sources known

P10 – less than 10 commercial nursery sources known

Pinus strobus 'Contorta' original tree (TC-2012-001)
The popular 'Contorta' of the worldwide trade is actually a clone with highly twisted needles. A few conifer experts know that original 'Contorta' of Slavin had twisted stems and rather straight needles. We photograhed the original tree in the lower portion of the Pinetum at Rochester, New York's Durand-Eastman park, confirming the popular 'Contorta' with very twisty, blue needles is absolutely different. Slavin found it at Seneca Park in Rochester but moved it to Durand-Eastman where a worldclass conifer collection, once second in size and scope only to the Arnold Arboretum, was forming. The very twisty trunks of the true, original monoclone is clear from this photo. There are more images found in our NORL files for subcribers. The imposter clone with the twisted bluish needles should now be called 'Torulose', being a post-1959 plant; causing the sometimes used 'Torulosa', 'Tortulosa', or 'Tortuosa' to be rendered invalid. This original clone needs to be propagated while the original tree remains reachable for scion material and heathy. We do not know of true material in the trade anywhere now (August 2012) and would like to hear of anyone propagating from this original tree.

The following plants, primarily of North American introduction, are believed to be very rare and/or endangered.


VCG Codes


Abies nordmanniana ‘Durham Dwarf’

L5, P0

Two plants existed at JC Raulston Arboretum, both died before 2010.

Acer saccharum ‘Globosum’

L5, P0


Acer saccharum ‘Senecaense’ (A., x senecaense)

L10, P0

Cercis canadensis ‘Bartlett King’

L5, P0

Cercis canadensis subsp. texensis ‘Texas Star’

L0, P0


Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Plumosa Lovettii’

L0, P0

Cornus florida ‘Magnifica’

L5, P0


Cornus racemosa ‘Slavin’s Dwarf’

L5, P5


Juniperus chinensis ‘Excelsior’

L5, P0


Juniperus chinensis ‘Fortunei’

L5, P0


Juniperus chinensis ‘Jenkins’

L5, P0

Exists at Holden Arb. #56-264

Juniperus chinensis ‘Luptonii’

L5, P0


Juniperus chinensis ‘Montgomery’

L5, P0


Juniperus horizontalis ‘Andorra Green’

L0, P0


Juniperus horizontalis ‘Andrewsii’

L0, P0


Juniperus horizontalis ‘Big Sky’

L0, P0


Juniperus horizontalis ‘Cascade Valley’

L0, P0


Juniperus horizontalis ‘Gracilis’

L0 (US), P0


Juniperus horizontalis ‘Ponderra Copper’

L0, P0


Juniperus horizontalis ‘Silver Sheen’

L5, P0


Juniperus x media ‘Arbuscula’

L5, P0


Juniperus x media ‘Green River’

L0, P0


Juniperus x media ‘Stay Low’

L5, P0


Juniperus x media ‘Sarcoxie’

L5, P0


Juniperus scopulorum ‘Gareei’

L5, P0

1.       denOuden & Boom (1965) describe this as whitish-blue, semi-dwarf, and very compact. This reminds me more of Cupressus glabra ‘Gareei’ so perhaps it is an error.

2.       Oldest living plant in the US is at Cornell Plantations. It is very dark green and narrowly fastigiate.  It’s obvious not denOUden & Boom’s plant. It traces to Chase Brothers Nursery, Rochester NY in 1941.

Juniperus virginiana ‘Globosa’

L5, P0


Juniperus virginiana ‘Reptans’

L10, P0


Melia azadarech ‘Umbraculiformis Aurea’

L0, P0

Mentioned by Jacobson in NALT (1996) and not reported since.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Bailey’

L0, P0


Morus alba ‘Nuclear Blast’

L5, P5


Picea abies ‘Barnes’

L5, P0


Picea abies ‘Highlandia’

L5, P5


Picea pungens ‘Coplens’ (‘Copeland’)

L5, P0


Picea pungens ‘Funky’

L5, P0


Picea pungens ‘Morden’ (‘Morden Blue’)

L0, P0


Pinus nigra ‘Pyramidalis’

L10, P5

1.       Original Rochester clone.

2.       Christmas tree industry grows a variable strain under this name from seed.

3.       3. This is not the same as subsp. pallasiana var. pyramidata.

Pinus strobus ‘Hinshaw Mutant’

L0, P0


Pinus taeda ‘Dixie’

L0, P0


Platanus mexicana ‘Alamo’

L0, P0


Platanus occidentalis ‘Howardii’

L5, P0


Prunus ‘Coleus’

L0, P0


Prunus ‘Garnet’

L0, P0


Quercus palustris ‘Mills Variegated’

L0, P0


Quercus phyllreoides ‘Emerald Sentinel’

L5, P0


Quercus robur ‘Fastigiata Special’ Girard Nur.

L5, P0

1. May be Q. x rosacea ‘Columna’ but more likely a less lobed seedling from ‘Fastigiata’ with ‘Holophylla’ (‘Salicifolia’) type leaves.

Quercus velutina ‘Rubrifolia’

L5, P0 (US)


Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Ohio Prostrate’

L5, P0


Taxodium distichum ‘Al’s Golden’

L0, P0


Taxus x hunnewelliana ‘Richard Horsey’

L10, P5


Thuja occidentalis ‘Affinity’

L5, P0

Listed with USDA-GRIN. No living plants reported.

Thuja occidentalis ‘Hudsonica’

L5, P0


Ulmus parvifolia ‘Barton’ (‘Bart’?)

L0, P0


Viburnum japonicum ‘Variegatum’

L5, P0