Agricultural Research Division of IANR


Date of this Version





Copyright 1993 American Society for Horticultural Science. Used by permission.


The genus Penstemon of cultivated landscape plants contains many species (Kartesz and Kartesz, 1980) and named horticultural selections (Lindgren and Davenport, 1992). However, of the 443 names listed in a recent publication summarizing Penstemon cultivar and selection names, only 29 (7%) were registered with the American Penstemon Society’s “Registrar of Cultivars” (Lindgren and Davenport, 1992). As with many ornamental crops, Penstemon cultivars are selected and developed by public and private plant breeders (professional and amateur) and other individuals. Many individuals who release and name Penstemon cultivars have little understanding of the cultivar release and registration process. Registering a new cultivar of a horticultural crop is useful and important, regardless of the crop’s economic value. Registration guidelines and procedures should be followed by anyone who names a cultivar.

Difficulties encountered when cultivar names are not registered

Problems can occur when new cultivars of any genus are not registered. Using Penstemon as an example, I will highlight several of these problems.

Lack of parentage information. Not knowing the parentage of named cultivars can lead to research duplication. A summary of the genetic background of the 443 Penstemon names that have been compiled as of 1992 (Lindgren and Davenport, 1992) indicates that the parentage of about one-third (148) of the listed cultivars is unknown (Table 1). One hundred sixty-five are listed as having a single species parent. Fifty are listed as P. barbatus or P. barbatus hybrids. Sixteen of these hybrids are listed as having ‘Flathead Lake’ background; 19 are listed as having “Gloxinoides” origin, which is described as either a P. hartwegii x P. cobaea hybrid or a P. hartwegii variant; 60 are listed as specific crosses between two parents (other than P. barbatus and “Gloxinoides”); and one selection is listed as a three-way hybrid. Cultivar name, pedigree, and general characteristics must be known before a new cultivar can be used intelligently in a breeding program (Lyrene, 1990). With a genus such as Penstemon, for which relatively few genetic studies have been published, it is even more critical to have background knowledge of all cultivars to help make initial breeding strategy decisions. This information could come from registration records if the cultivars were registered properly.

Misspelled names. Misspelling names may cause one cultivar to be listed as one or more similarly spelled cultivars. Some similarly spelled cultivar names in the Penstemon genus are ‘Alice Hindley’ vs. ‘Alice Handley’; ‘Middleton Gem’ vs. ‘Middleton Gen.’ vs. ‘Myddelton Gem’; ‘George Holmes’ vs. ‘George Home’; ‘Hewell’s Pink’ vs. ‘Howell’s Pink’; and ‘Gadwood Hybrids’ vs. ‘Gladwood Hybrids’. Are these different cultivars with similarly spelled names or are they the same cultivar with a misspelled name? We do not know. Crosswhite (1967) discussed spelling variants for the genus Penstemon (Penstemon vs. Pentstemon vs. Pentastemun vs. Penstastemon) and indicated that mere spelling differences do not create new names. The same applies to cultivar names. He also stated that “It is only natural for a bibliographer to list each spelling variant separately, merely because he does not know for certain whether separate names are involved or not.” If a name were registered, much of this spelling confusion could be eliminated.

Included in

Agriculture Commons