What's in a name? Is the word grandiflora significant?

ritmatt(GA 7b)December 10, 2012

A house I recently bought came with a landscape plan that calls for 40 Abelia grandiflora 'Rose Creek'. Searching the Internet, I can find references to both Abelia x 'Rose Creek' and Abelia x grandiflora 'Rose Creek'. My local nursery has a plant labeled Abelia X with a common name of Rose Creek Abelia. For a guy that's just learning about this stuff, it's a little confusing.

Are all those references describing the same plant, or is there a variety without the grandiflora specification that is different from one with the word grandiflora in the scientific name?

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

looks to me.. like someone saved money on a 'per letter' tag.. lol ..

what baffles me.. is 40 of one plant ... what happens when some plague comes along ... and wipes them all out.. one by one.. right down the row???

if you right click on each name.. and do a google search .. and flip to images.. ipso presto.. they all look the same ...

in my world.. grandiflora simply means groups of flowers per stem .. [making them grand] .. as compared to single flowers ... on a stem ... think single roses on a long stem.. versus clusters of smaller flowers on a stem ... but that is not scientific knowledge.. just common usage. ...

think about that monoculture.. will you ....


ps: in theory.. the words in quotes .. in this case 'Rose Creek'.. should NEVER be duplicated within a species.. or else.. wait for it.. it would lead to confusion.. which is kinda the whole point of nomenclature rules ... unique names.. for unique plants ... again.. using roses.. you cant have a red one named 'joe' ... and a yellow one named 'joe' .. two peeps couldnt have a conversation about 'joe' ... and be sure they were discussing the same plant ... well.. thats your nomenclature lesson for a newbie ...

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 9:05PM
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ritmatt(GA 7b)

Thanks for the info, Ken. I thought that would be the case, but I wasn't sure.

40 gardenias might seem like a lot, but they are spread out all over the property in the plan, which calls for almost 2000 individual plants.

Thanks again for the info.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 10:39PM
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mistascott(7A VA)

In the simple cases, plants are identified by their botanical name which is their genus and a specific epithet. The genus is capitalized and the specific epithet is lower case. Both names are italicized and both are always in Latin. Together they form the species name (e.g. Scabiosa caucasica).

Species within a genus are often intentionally crossed to create hybrids, usually denoted by an "x" followed by the hybrid specific epithet (e.g. Abelia x grandiflora). The "x" followed by grandiflora ("large flower" in Latin) indicates a hybridization intended to make the flowers bigger than the other species in the genus. Sometimes hybrids are simply given the specific epithet "hybridus" (Latin for "hybrid"). Growers often develop a unique species variety through selective cross-breeding or mutation. These are called "cultivars." Cultivar epithets are denoted by single quotation marks (e.g. 'Rose Creek'). These cannot be in Latin and they are not italicized.

It appears that your plant is a cultivar of a hybridized Abelia. Its full botanical name is Abelia x grandiflora 'Rose Creek.' The genus is Abelia, the "x" indicates a hybrid species, the specific epithet grandiflora indicates a large-flowered species, and 'Rose Creek' is the cultivar epithet. Sometimes people drop the specific epithet and just refer to the plant as Abelia 'Rose Creek,' hence the confusion. I hope this doesn't confuse you even further!

This post was edited by mistascott on Fri, Dec 14, 12 at 10:19

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 11:36PM
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mistascott(7A VA)

I should add that a plant's common name is usually not the cultivar epithet. Rather, it is often genus-based or some other non-Latin name (e.g. Jupiter's Beard). In the case of Abelia x grandiflora, it is Glossy Abelia (genus-based). Common names are often confusing because the same one can refer to multiple species (e.g. Coneflower), there may be more than one per species (e.g. Blanket Flower, Indian Blanket, and Firewheel may all refer to Gaillardia pulchella), and they can change over time. We use Latin to name plants because it is a "dead" language whose words and meanings do not change over time. However, largely due to innovations in plant DNA mapping, botanists are constantly reclassifying plants into new and different genera and creating new species names, so even the Latin names are subject to confusing changes.

There are more nuances to botanical names than what I described above (and more than you probably care to know), but I gave it to you in a nutshell. See the below link for some finer detail if you are interested.

Here is a link that might be useful: Botanical Names

This post was edited by mistascott on Thu, Dec 13, 12 at 15:41

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 11:40PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

hey mista .. that is a very good.. concise ... lesson on nomenclature ...

boy a 2000 plant project.. good luck

do you have any personal involvement.. with the designer??? .. it might be worth the investment [time and/or money] to talk with them .. rather than simply relying on the prior plan ...

OR!!! ... it might be worthwhile to spend a little upfront.. to get a second opinion.. of the plan you have ... obviously.. i am just guessing here.. with no real knowledge of said plan ...

is the water system.. already installed ... is that part of the plan??? .. PROPER watering is high on the list of success .. the other important variables being PROPER planting ... and PROPER MULCHING ... and of course.. starting with quality stock ...

good luck.. you will need it as a newbie ...


    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 7:42AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Possibly a typo, ritmatt, but Abelias are not Gardenias, nor anything like them, apart from being shrubs.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 9:03AM
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ritmatt(GA 7b)

Wow, lots of good information here.

Mista, I did some searching for information about scientific naming conventions both before and after my original post. Yours is the best explanation I've seen. Very helpful - thank you!

Ken, yes, I have been in contact with the landscape architect and plan to have him over after the holidays. For now, I'm simply trying to familiarize myself with his plan and the plants he's called for, and to figure out what was already implemented before I came along (it appears the plan was commissioned and partially carried out, but there are a number of deviations). Thanks for your suggestions regarding planning and irrigation - I agree and I'm on it. I'll be taking my time with the plan, though. Implementation will happen over a period of years.

Flora, you are correct. A typo. I've had gardenias on my mind for similar reasons, so I was thinking about them in addition to the Abelias. The plan calls for Gardenia radicans aka Creeping Gardenia. The nursery carries Gardenia Radicans aka Gardenia Jasminoides. Near as I can tell, it's all the same stuff and the real scientific name is Gardenia jasminoides 'Radicans'.

Its hard to be certain about things when there are so many naming variations out there. I'm beginning to appreciate the scientific names, but even those are only dependable if the person that typed them did so fully and correctly. Not to mention whether the label was attached to the correct plant. Its all part of the fun, I suppose!

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 9:29PM
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coolplantsguy(z6 Ontario)

FYI, the specific epithet "grandiflora" does not always indicate that the plant(s) are hybrids. Several wild species were given this name as an indication to the relative size of the flower within the genus. For example, Coreopsis grandiflora, Digitalis grandiflora, Prunella grandiflora, etc.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 10:43AM
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mistascott(7A VA)

Thanks coolplantsguy for that clarification. I will adjust my post accordingly. I should note that there are also several species that are given the specific epithet "grandiflorum" and aren't hybrids. The "x" is what signifies a hybrid.

This post was edited by mistascott on Thu, Dec 13, 12 at 15:48

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 4:05PM
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mistascott(7A VA)


Gardenia jasminoides 'Radicans' is reportedly less hardy than the shrub version. It would be marginally hardy in Zone 7B but would probably survive all but the harshest winters provided it is in a protected Southern exposure. Gardenia are particularly susceptible to wind burn from harsh Arctic winds.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 4:23PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hey, how did you edit your posts Mistacott? Has GW actually added an edit feature? Yippee!

Wish I could grow Gardenias.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 2:36AM
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Propaganda Garden Design

Just to be nitpicky about what mistascott said the first part of the name in binomial nomenclature is the genus but the second part is actually called the specific epithet not the species. The two words together are the species name.

So using the Scabiosa caucasica example:

Scabiosa = genus
caucasica = specific epithet
Scabiosa caucasica = species
Scabiosa caucasica 'Fama' = cultivar name

Botanical latin can be really confusing at first but it is kind of fun. Until you get into Orchids with Grex names and trademarks and cultivars. Then it is super annoying.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 4:22AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL

Just don't get too attached to any particular name. "They" change them.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 12:03PM
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mistascott(7A VA)

Thanks, clematisintegrifolia. I updated my post accordingly. I want to make sure the info is 100% correct so that people don't get misled if they stumble onto this thread.

Terrene, there is an edit feature but it only appears to work for recent posts (after they added it). It should be under the clippings menu to the right of the post. I am also overjoyed that they added it because I tend to want to edit my posts constantly.

This post was edited by mistascott on Thu, Dec 13, 12 at 15:51

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 3:44PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Cool! We can edit posts, and I learned about specific epithets from Clematis! Is it still called a specific epithet when there is a subspecies?

I LOVE growing plants, and have worked hard to learn the proper nomenclature for them. If you really want to know what species you're growing, it's a necessity.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 8:58PM
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