Friday, September 14, 2018

The Plant Name Challenge

Pinus parviflora 'Goldilocks'

If you consult the American Conifer Society (ACS) website concerning Pinus parviflora 'Goldilocks' (or 'Goldylocks') you will read, “This cultivar has a complex history and illustrates why taxonomists can be difficult to be around.” Indeed, it has a murky history, but I don't think any “taxonomists” – at least trained or professional – have had anything to do with it...but I would agree that taxonomists can be difficult to be around.

Pinus parviflora 'Goldilocks'

The ACS continues, “According to the Royal Horticultural Encyclopedia of Conifers, Goldilocks is synonymous with P. parviflora 'Dr. Landis Gold' and the misspelled 'Goldilocks' but the correct name should be Pinus parviflora 'Tenysu-kazu'.”

The Royal Encyclopedia is a wonderful well-photographed publication but it contains mistakes – to be expected – and it is wrong about this “Tenysu-kazu.” I'll go back to the Flora Wonder Blog Partial to Pinus parviflora from January 25, 2018 and repeat the part about 'Goldilocks':

Pinus parviflora 'Goldilocks'

For years I kept separated and propagated three parviflora cultivars that always looked alike – 'Goldylocks', 'Dr. Landis' and 'Tenysu kazu'. I heard a couple of times that they were one and the same with 'Tenysu kazu' being the original name (from Japan). It was supposedly imported into North America by the late Dr. Henry Landis of Ontario, Canada, and was called (at times) 'Dr. Landis Gold' since the needle tips are cream-yellow in color. Upon Landis's death some of his plants were purchased by Verkade Nursery of New Jersey and they wrongly named the plant 'Tensu kasu'. Later someone else renamed the selection 'Goldylocks' – spelled deliberately wrong. The American Conifer Society states, “With that, the ACS will recognize the 'Tenyzu*-Kazu' – [thanks, but why the dash in the name?] – the original Japanese name, as the proper cultivar name with 'Goldylocks', 'Dr. Landis' and 'Dr. Landis Gold' relegated to AKA status, while 'Tensu kazu' and 'Goldilocks' are left as misspellings of other names.” But, of course, the previous sentence from the ACS should not capitalize the kazu part.

*Even the Conifer Society spells it Tenysu and Tenyzu in the same description.

You get the story again if you google Pinus parviflora 'Goldylocks' on the ACS website, where it is written that “This cultivar has a complex history and illustrates why taxonomists can be difficult to be around.” Then, a David Olszyk stridently comments, “It's becoming more well-known that 'Tenysu-kazu' is the correct cultivar name for this selection. The rules of nomenclature require that the original name be used for academic study with commercial names relegated to AKA status.” That's why, for example, that the misspelled Acer pensylvanicum stands, when the correct spelling of pennsylvanicum should have been used. So thank you, David O., for your nomenclatural expertise.

Pinus parviflora 'Tenysu kazu'?

But wait a minute. What if the good Dr. Landis screwed up in the first place with the spelling of 'Tenysu kazu'? Tensu kazu or Tansu kazu seem to be legitimate Japanese names, but Tenysu does not. I'm certainly not a Japanese linguistics expert, but at this point in my life...with using Japanese plant names for 45 years, and then being married to a wife with two daughters who chirp constantly in Japanese, I can positively tell you that tenysu is not Japanese. Wife – Haruko – confirmed my suspicion and said definitely not. So there.

Pinus parviflora 'Tanima no yuki'

Remember – it was Haruko Buchholz who cleared up the nomenclature of another Japanese parviflora pine – 'Tanima no yuki' which was screwed up into 'Tani mano uki', and even today some prominent nurseries still have it wrong, and so even does the Royal Horticultural Society of England. While a number of individuals take credit for the correct spelling – as in they have “researched” into the matter – it was actually Haruko who first solved the mystery 17 years ago. We were walking through the Display Garden and I asked her the meaning of the Japanese name. I said, “They say that the name means snow on the mountain.” Wrong. She corrected the spelling to “snow in the valley” by rearranging the letters into “Tanima no yuki.” Furthermore – she blushed – “tanima (or valley) is slang that bad boys use to refer to a woman's cleavage.” I reminded her that I was a “bad boy” too.

Osaka Castle

Anyway, back to the Tenyzu or Tenysu kazu question, Haruko says kazu means “number” so I don't know why that would be in a plant name. She wonders if the correct name is 'Tenshu kaku', an architectural typology commonly known as a castle keep (donjon), which is usually the central tower located within a castle. Note the tower of the famous Osaka castle – maybe that looks a little bit like the variegated P. parviflora. That's a long-shot name and explanation, and one would have to consult an old Japanese conifer connoisseur I suppose, but I don't know of anyone. In the meantime we'll continue to label and sell our trees as 'Goldilocks' because I don't like the “y” in either Goldylocks or Tenysu. In fact the latter sounds like “tennis shoe.” For what it's worth the Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs goes with Tennis shoe, er...'Tenysu-kazu'.

Due to Haruko's intense Japanese pride and her desire to contribute to my career, she made a determined effort to solve the 'Goldilocks' nomenclatural kerfuffle. She consulted the cognoscenti in
Japan – and she has quite an array of distinguished contacts – but came up empty. They like her 'Tenshu kaku' theory however.

Whatever the plant's correct name, Dr. Landis brought it into Canada around 1980. Thereafter, the ACS explains, “Sometime before 1999 Billy Schwartz, a colleague of Bob Fincham [the first ACS President], brought back from Japan a cultivar with many of the same characteristics which Schwartz called 'Goldilocks' (sic). Fincham has propagated Schwartz's specimen and believes it to be the same as 'Tenysu-kazu'.” If, if that is true, the implication is that there is or was a cultivated variant produced by someone in Japan, but that Western horticulture has screwed up the name beyond that. One of Haruko's contacts suggested that Dr. Landis collected the one variegated seedling from a bonsai grower-say-and brought that back to Canada, so no one in Japan would know anything about a “cultivar.” However, if the Fincham/Schwartz theory is correct, then someone in Japan was actually producing a cultivar.

At this point Buchholz will use the trade name of Pinus parviflora 'Goldilocks' (AKA 'Tenshu kaku'). But I stress that I am not on a nomenclatural mission to convert anyone to use my proposed name, least of all the venerable RHS, even though the ACS and the RHS are both clearly wrong with their name.

PS 1 I'll indulge your patience with a couple of post scripts. I've been to London's world-famous Kew Gardens twice, the last time with wife Haruko, BC (Before Children), so it must have been around 16 years ago. In their iconic rock garden was a number of dwarf conifers with attractive, authoritative labels. A little cutie pine was labelled strobus when it was actually a parviflora, or perhaps vice versa – I don't remember which. But it was wrong, I was 100% certain of it. I should have photographed and documented the error, but at the time I didn't think to do so, or that I would even be alive and writing a blog about it in 2018. I thought it was incumbent upon me, however, to report to a nearby gardener who was making notes, perhaps for a to-do work list, about my discovery. “I say, good chap” – but then I had to wait 20 seconds for a roaring low-flying jet to pass – “just so you know, there is a labelling mistake in the rock garden, that Pinus so-and-so is really Pinus blah blah blah.” Woah – his left nostril contracted and his upper lip curled in a look of disdain, contempt – no, utter incredulousness! – that a colonial hillbilly should ever question the sanctity of this premier RHS institution. I shrugged, whatever, because in my life I don't mind to make mistakes, to be wrong. In fact, I prefer to be the dumbest man in the room, especially among women, because I receive stimulation to be in the company of superior intellects. My god – give up your ego if it allows you to elevate...and the women will love you anyway.

Ginkgo biloba

PS 2 I mentioned previously that Acer pensylvanicum's name was a spelling mistake (should have been pennsylvanicum), but that the rules of international nomenclature insist that the mistake should stand. The same is true with one of my favorite trees, Ginkgo biloba. It is found in fossils dating back 270 million years and is native to China. eventually the genus made its way to Japan, and today's name of Ginkgo is regarded as a misspelling of Japanese gin kyo, meaning “silver apricot,” referring to the edible seed. Engelbert Kaempfer first described Ginkgo in his book Amoenitatum Exoticarum with the spelling of Ginkgo, but that perhaps was a misspelling of Ginkjo, and that error was spread by Linnaeus in his book Mantissa Plantarum II. The Japanese language system of Kanji typically has multiple pronunciations and you can't really blame a Westerner for being confused. The older Chinese name for the tree means “silver fruit,” pronounced Yinguo in Mandarin or Ngan-gwo in Cantonese.

Pinus parviflora 'Himeko janome'

Pinus parviflora 'Hagoromo'

PS 3 Earlier I alluded to “mistakes” in the RHS Encyclopedia of Conifers. One common error seems to bother me more than it does others, and that is the practice of capitalizing the second part of a Japanese plant name. I see it too often with Japanese-origin maples as well as with pines. No Royal Encyclopedia should list 'Fubuki Nishiki' and 'Gin Yatsubusa' and 'Himeko Janome' instead of the correct 'Fubuki nishiki', 'Gin yatsubusa' and 'Himeko janome'. Pinus parviflora 'Pygmy Yatsubusa' should not have a capital “y,” but then it's not a legitimate name anyway. Pinus parviflora 'Hagaramo' and 'Hagaramo Seedling' are not correct – it should be 'Hagoromo' which translates as an “angel's robe.” But I guess, for some reason, 'Hagoromo' isn't used anymore, and it is a synonym for 'Gyoku-sho-hime', so apparently the latter name was used first. P. parviflora 'Asahi-zuro' is not a Japanese word – it should be 'Asahi zuru' and the name means “dawn swan” or “rising sun.”

Pinus mugo 'Piggelmee'

There are a number of cases where the RHS lists plant names unlike what I have seen before, so I wonder who is right, or at least the most correct. I grow Pinus mugo 'Elfingreen' but I have seen it listed as 'Elfin Green'. The RHS goes with 'Elfengreen' for what it's worth. I list Pinus mugo 'Piggelmee' but the book has 'Pigglemee'. I have a Pinus mugo 'Reisengebirg' but the RHS lists 'Reisengebirge'. Pinus strobus 'Slim Jim' or the RHS's 'Slim Gem'? Pinus ponderosa 'Margaret' or the RHS 'Margarette'? These questions might seem as trivial nitpicking to some, but we have already seen how easily Pinus parviflora 'Tenshu kaku' – and what the name refers to – get corrupted into the non-meaning 'Tenysu kazu' or 'Tensu kazu'.

Pinus pumila 'Dwarf Blue'

Another question – are there really two distinct cultivars: Pinus pumila 'Dwarf Blue' and 'Blue Dwarf'? Pinus mugo 'Jakobsen' is a valid listing but 'Jakobsen Variegated' is dubious as the freakish pine often – too often – presents cream-white portions that frequently burn in Oregon. In fact, I don't think I should propagate it anymore because I've thrown too many out.

Pinus parviflora 'Ogon janome'

While not a “mistake,” I wonder about the RHS assertion that Pinus parviflora 'Himeko Janome' [sic] is more colorful than 'Ogon Janome' [sic]. The beautiful photo (page 1000) of the former is from my garden, but I've never grown the two side-by-side to know which is the “more colorful.”

Pinus mugo 'Mr. Wood'

In some other instances the Encyclopedia is flat-out wrong. Pinus mugo 'Fish Hook' is not synonymous with Pinus mugo 'Mr. Wood'. I've gone over the history, probably ad nauseum. While they indeed look alike, they each were introduced independently, and I and the other grower were unaware until years later. I'll repeat from a previous Flora Wonder Blog, Cute as a Button, Jan. 27, 2017:

Another cute pine is the diminutive Pinus mugo 'Mr. Wood', and it too features tiny recurved blue needles. A seedling was given to me about twenty years ago by the late Edsal Wood, a very generous plantsman with an eye for the unusual. He grew thousands of seedlings, in particular hemlocks, but he gave away the fun stuff because he made an adequate living with his Woods' Rooting Hormone – which we still use – and other chemicals. I honestly thought Edsal was mistaken when he handed me the mugo for it more resembled a very refined Pinus parviflora. It was only three inches tall in a little pot, but when I got home I pulled off a fascicle and indeed it consisted of two needles, not the five of a parviflora.

Years later I came across a Pinus mugo 'Fish Hook' that was introduced by Larry Stanley of Stanley and Sons Nursery of Oregon. Some conifer aficionados insisted that 'Mr. Wood' was just a renaming of 'Fish Hook', and shame on that Buchholz cad for doing so. But rong! It turns out that Edsal gave another (sister) seedling to Larry about the same time, and while they are similar, they are absolutely two different clones. I'll take my hat off to Larry for he chose the better cultivar name, and I'm always harping against using a person's name for a cultivar. But I never intended to name mine 'Mr. Wood' – that was just a temporary code name so I could keep track of it. At some point I gave away or sold a few, so with the horse out of the barn the name must stick.

Pinus strobus 'Mini Twists'

Another glaring error is to attribute Pinus strobus 'Mini Twists' and 'Tiny Kurls' to the late plantsman Andy Sherwood of Oregon. Sherwood had died decades before the two dwarf pine cultivars were developed. Greg Williams, a noted plantsman from Vermont, had noticed that Pinus strobus 'Horsham', a dwarf selection from a witch's broom, produced a high percentage of dwarf seedlings. I copy the following two paragraphs from Robert Fincham's Small Conifers for Small Gardens (2011):

Pinus strobus 'Torulosa' is an open-branched tree with serpentine branches and twisted needles. It is attractive but becomes quite large. Williams had a Pinus strobus 'Horsham' planted near a Torulosa' and worked with its seedlings for a number of years. A high percentage of these seedlings were dwarf and exhibited characteristics inherited from the 'Torulosa'. Williams shared three of these seedlings with other collectors and nurserymen. I was one of the collectors.

When I wanted to introduce two of the seedlings through Coenosium Gardens, I contacted Williams and received his permission to name them. I named the slowest growing seedling 'Mini Twists'. The faster growing seedling, called 'Tiny Kurls' by Dianne, was introduced first. The fastest growing seedling of the three never became popular and wasn't given a name.

Pinus strobus 'Vercurve'

The third cultivar was indeed named and cultivated by me, and perhaps it is the largest growing of the three. I named it 'Vercurve' because it originated in Vermont and displays curved needles. I don't propagate it anymore because I like the 'Mini Twists' name better, but 'Mini Twists' is hardly a “mini.” My website says it grows 2.5' tall by 3' wide in 10 years, but 12-year-olds are about 3' tall by 5' wide, at least in my nursery.

Pinus cembra 'Tamangur'

Pinus fenzeliana

Note in this blog that I have only mentioned the genus Pinus. I could easily have haggled over other genera, but hopefully I have made my point about the accuracy of plant names and their history – the purpose of the Encyclopedia. I also learned a lot as I perused the Pinus section late on last Sunday night. My Pinus cembra 'Tamansur' is actually 'Tamangur', a place name in Switzerland. Pinus mugo 'Yellow Tip' is correct, not my 'Yellow Point'. Furthermore I was surprised that a favorite pine, P. kwangtungensis, is now known as P. fenzeliana...and so on.

My reservations with the book are puny compared to the incredible achievement of author Derek Spicer. He has been collecting and propagating conifers since the late 1960's, and now owns Kilworth Conifers in Leicestershire, England. My head was swimming as I reviewed just the Pinus section, and it seems practically impossible that only one human compiled the entire Encyclopedia.

Latvian Aris Auders photographed almost everything in the Encyclopedia. He is also a conifer collector and garden designer. All of the photographs are numbered per garden location and my number is 13. Aris only spent two part-days here, and yet found dozens of plants that are included in the book. His perspective on the trees is unique: and though I might walk past a particular specimen every day, somehow he perceived it differently, and it is a treat to see my world through this artist's eyes.

Mr. Auders showed me another of his publications when he was here – I got to borrow it for the night. It was filled with his wife's paintings, for Agija Auders is a renowned artist, and she was the design director for the Encyclopedia. I cheekily told Aris that I liked his wife's work more than his, and actually I do. The bonus of the Encyclopedia is that at the beginning of each of the two volumes is one of her paintings. Volume One presented Moonlight Garden, oil on canvas, 2006 and Volume Two featured White Garden, oil on canvas, 2011. I can't copy those of course, but if you search for her on the internet you will understand my admiration. Hmm...a trip to Latvia in the spring?

1 comment:

  1. Hello Talon, thanks again for the mention of the American Conifer Society. I've gone in and edited the records for 'Tenysu kazu' and 'Tanima no yuki' per your well though-out recommendations. I also added a link to this blog post. I hope that 'Tenshu kaku' gains traction. Can you please let us know what that translates into.

    with great respect and highest regards,
    David Olszyk
    President, American Conifer Society