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Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
WHAT ARE CULTIVARS?
Cultivars are cultivated varieties of plants selected and grown for particular features. A cultivar may have a different growth form, flower color, or leaf shape from its wild relatives. It may be more resistant to drought or disease. Most ornamental plants are cultivars.
Cultivars can be developed by various combinations of selection and/or hybridization, or by genetic engineering. The cultivars displayed in this Garden are derived from native California plants.
Native peoples, as well as many of the early European explorers, used
California native plants.
As early as the eighteenth century, explorers traveled the coast of California, pressing plants for scientific study and gathering seeds for cultivation.
|In 1786 the sand verbena (Abronia umbellata), collected by Jean-Nicholas Collignon near Monterey, became the first California native plant to flower in Europe. This began to generate interest and awareness of the California flora.||The California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), our state flower, was described from specimens collected from the San Francisco Presidio in 1816 by Adelbert von Chamisso, a French poet, medical student, and botanist, and Johann Eschscholtz, a Russian doctor and zoologist, during a Russian scientific expedition to coastal California. Chamisso later named the poppy in honor of his friend Eschscholtz.|
During his journeys through California in the early 1830's, David
Douglas, a Scottish botanist, collected seeds of many plants for
London's Royal Horticultural Society. The Santa Lucia fir
(Abies bracteata), lupines, penstemons, and various currants
were some of the plants he introduced into cultivation.
In 1832 Thomas Coulter, an Irish naturalist, met Douglas in Monterey.
The two then collaberated in their botanical exploration of California. Coulter's collections led to the description and naming of the Bishop, Coulter, and Monterey pines (Pinus muricata, p. coulteri, P. radiata).
|John Fremont, an explorer and surveyor for the U.S. Army, collected plants on his travels through California in the mid-1800's. He discovered many new species, including the Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri) and the rare bush anemone (Carpenteria californica). The spectacular flannel bushes of the genus Fremontodendron were named in his honor.|
|At the turn of the century, several horticulturists encouraged the use of native plants in gardens.||Theodore Payne was the first to systematically collect wildflower seeds, increase their numbers through cultivation, and offer them for sale via catalogs. Concerned that development would deplete the Califonia flora, Payne wrote and lectured about California plants and planted display gardens to spark public interest in native plants.||
Louis Edmunds improved techniques for propagating trees and shrubs, and
enthusiastically promoted manzanitas (Arctostaphylos species).
Many of our long-popular native plant cultivars are a direct or indirect
result of his efforts. Arctostaphylos densiflora 'Howard McMinn'
and Ceanothus griseus "Louis Edmunds' are prime examples.
Lester Rowntree, a staunch defender of wild plants and wilderness, wrote and lectured in praise of our native flora. To support her wildflower seed business, she made long, solitary collecting trips, traveling by car from deserts to mountains or packing by burro into the high Sierra Nevada.
SELECTION FROM THE WILD
Plants of the same species often show considerable variation.
Individuals may have larger, more numerous, or differently
colored flowers. Some may have leaves of different sizes, shapes,
Others might have an uncommon resistance to diseases or pests, or tolerance to drought or other environmental conditions.
This natural variation allows us to select plants from the wild that have the desired features. The chosen plants are then propagated asexually by cuttings, division, or tissue culture. Most California native plant cultivars have originated in this way.
Because of their special attributes, cultivars are named to distinguish
them from all other wild and cultivated forms of that plant. Cultivars
may be named after a person or place, such as Heuchera 'Susanna',
named in honor of Susanna Bixby Bryant, founder of Rancho Santa Ana
Descriptive names, like Zauschneria californica 'Alba', and fantasy names, such as Mimulus 'Fiesta' are also frequently used in naming cultivars. Cultivar names are always capitalized and enclosed in single quotation marks.
When people decide to change or enhance a particular feature of
a wild plant, a process of repeated selection is employed.
The development of yellow-flowered lewisias Lewisia cotyledon) is an example
Since yellow-flowered lewisias are rarely found in nature, seeds from an unusual individual with white flowers and pale yellow highlights were collected and sown. When the progeny flowered, the yellowest individuals were self-pollinated or crossed with each other.
This process was repeated until an individual with completely yellow flowers was developed. This individual was then propagated asexually by cuttings, division, or tissue culture.
Domestication is the adaptation to live in intimate association with
and for the benefit of people. This is the most specialized form of
repeated selection, involving thousands of generations of plants.
Over time, this process results in plants which lose their ability to survive in the wild. Some of our food and fiber crops, such as corn, tomatoes, and cotton, are examples of domesticated plants.
None of our native plants has been selected to this degree, although some of our native Iris and Mimulus (Diplacus) may become domesticated.
Hybridization involves the cross-pollination of two plants which are
different in some way.
When attempted by people (artificial hybridization), it is done with the hope of creating a new plant which combines the distinctive features of the parents.
Hybrid plants with desirable features are then propagated asexually by cuttings, division, or tissue culture, and may receive a cultivar name. An extensive array of Mimulus (Diplacus) cultivars has been developed this way.
Natural hybridization is common among some species of our Pacific
Coast irises. Chance hybridization often occurs in gardens where
plants that would not normally grow together are planted.
Mahonia 'Golden Abundance' originated at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in this way.
Hybrids between species from different genera rarely occur in nature,
but several have been made by people. For example, a cultivar of our
native flannel bush, Fremontodendron 'Pacific Sunset' was crossed
with the Mexican Chiranthofremontia pentadactylon resulting in
The "x" in front of the new "genus" name indicates that this plant is a hybrid between genera.
The new "species" name honors Dr. Lee Lenz, second director of our Garden.
FROM OUR OWN GARDEN
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden has a long history of developing
cultivars of California native plants and has been the primary
source of these plants for the horticultural trade and the public.
The plants in this area are cultivars named, selected, or developed
by Garden staff.
Of the more than 75 cultivars developed at this Garden, the following are some of the most notable:
Arctostaphylos 'Anchor Bay'
Arctostaphylos 'Emerald Carpet'
Arctostaphylos 'Indian Hill'
Arctostaphylos 'John Dourley'
Arctostaphylos 'Lester Rowntree'
Arctostaphylos 'Pacific Mist'
var marinensis 'Point Reyes'
ssp. pilularis 'Twin Peaks #1'
ssp. pilularis 'Twin Peaks #2'
Ceanothus 'Blue Buttons'
Ceanothus 'Blue Cascade'
Ceanothus 'Blue Jeans'
Ceanothus 'Blue Whisp'
Ceanothus 'Fallen Skies'
Ceanothus 'Frosty Blue'
Ceanothus 'Sierra Snow'
Ceanothus griseus 'Santa Ana'
Ceanothus maritimus 'Claremont'
var. albus 'Snowball'
Cercis occidentalis 'Claremont'
Fremontodendron 'California Glory'
Fremontodendron 'Pacific Sunset'
Fremontodendron 'San Gabriel'
var. cerina 'Claremont'
Heuchera 'Santa Ana Cardinal'
Iris 'Claremont Bluebird'
Iris 'Sierra Blue'
Iris 'Sierra Sapphire'
Keckiella 'Dick Straw'
Keckiella 'Philip Munz'
Mahonia 'Golden Abundance'
var. glutinosum 'Claremont'
Salvia 'Allen Chickering'
Zauschneria californica 'Summer Snow'
The large and diverse flora of California has many plants with considerable
horticultural promise, yet this source of ornamental cultivars remains
largely untapped. The changing urban and suburban environments of
California are rapidly creating a demand for these plants.
In Southern California, for example, it is not sufficient for a plant to be merely beautiful. Our cultivated plants must tolerate drought, air pollution, gray water, and a wide range of soil conditions.
At Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, we are developing beautiful native cultivars which do not merely tolerate the environments of southern California, but thrive in them. You have seen many of our accomplishments in this Cultivar Garden.
We invite you to follow our progress as we continue to develop the native cultivars of the future.
A few of the cultivars in the garden...
(H. pilosissima x H. sanguinea)
Alum-root hybrid introduced by
California Flora Nursery
Cleveland's Sage selection introduced by
California Flora Nursery
Wild Buckwheat selection introduced by
Theodore Payne foundation
Desert Willow selection introduced by
Fat Totem Pole Cactus
Lophocereus schottii var. schottii f.
Cactus Family - Cactaceae
Range: Restricted to a single population in the
vicinity of El Arco, Baja California, Mexico.
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