Taxonomy of Landscape Plants

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Taxonomic Computer Research



There are literally thousands of plant genera that may be identified using computer and net-based technologies. Here were limit our scope to genera and taxa groups of interest to the ornamental landscape trade. Our early efforts will emphasize woody plants and herbaceous perennials grown in temperate regions.

New, original keys to perennial genera, resource links, hybridization charts, articles, comparative ID charts, and more. This site is available to New Ornamentals Society members by subscription. Click on the icon for access information.

  1. DETERMINE SYNONYMS. Cultivar A looks a bunch like Cultivar B but it's hard to be sure. Modern lab techniques can often resolve old taxonomic mysteries with high decrees of confidence.
  2. DOCUMENT COLLECTIONS. Botanical gardens and arboretum occasionally have labels or records that are lost, scrambled, or otherwise unusable. They may know that they have 10 different cultivars of a species but need to match the names to individual living examples. This is not always feasible but when dealing with a finite number of known taxa it is often successful.
  3. NURSERY EFFICIENCY. If you've ever worked at a big wholesale nursery you'll run into people who can sort azalea cultivars by foliage alone! Working with young junipers and small roses is no easy task either. To propagate, transplant, move, and pick vast quanitities of plant material cultivar ID is an essential skill. Billions of dollars of such product is identified and transfered around the world each year. Sometimes you can teach it to others but most of the time it's just a learned skill using the best graphics processor and supercomputer ever invented - which fortunately most people get free at birth.
  4. PREDICT FUTURE LANDSCAPES. Anyone who plans and designs landscapes (whether a home gardener or award-winning landscape architect) needs to understand cultivar growth potential. Do I leave this plant because its a compact dwarf - or will it soar and cover the expensive new windows and threaten the structures in an ice storm. Young plants in many genera look very similar. One may grow a quarter inch a year while another may put on a couple of feet per year. Mistaking a dwarf Chamaecyparis pisifera for x Cupressocyparis leylandii or vice versa can be costly to property and reputation. The world's landscapes are full of obvious and foolish mistakes because one cultivar was confused with another.
  5. SALVAGE NURSERY STOCK. On some occasions vast acreages of plants become undocumented for one reason or another. Very valuable plant material needs to have a reliable name to command top market prices. This can be a difficult task but on occasion the cost of expensive analysis and hiring consultants has been economically viable.
  6. INVESTIGATE PLANT PATENT AND TRADEMARK INFRINGEMENTS. The legel evidence from chemotaxonomy and DNA analysis can make the OJ trial look like 8th grade biology. This should be a lesson to anyone who has found a great unknown plant, propagates it, sells it, and does not do good exhaustive research first. Not a few well-meaning folks have found themselves descended upon by a host of attorneys and had to spend days in a distant court. In a few cases the very businesses have been placed in financial jeopardy. If there is even a remote chance you have a patented or trademarked plant PLEASE scrap it and obtain stock from a reliable or licensed source.
  7. PLAN CULTIVAR DEVELOPMENT. Without a very specific and meticulous knowledge of existing cultivars one cannot set out to breed, select, or collect new superior cultivars. You have to understand existing differences with all the individual cultivar flaws and strengths before creating a new niche.


Copyright 2000. Laurence Hatch. All Rights Reserved.
All educational and commercial use requires written permission.