What’s in a name?

One of the main things I’ve learned on this national collection journey is the importance of labelling your plants and knowing what you are growing. So, ensuring you know what cultivar you have is key. Now obviously some seeds won’t come true, there may be some cross pollination and the seeds drop where they shouldn’t, but the problem really starts to arise when seemingly seeds for the same cultivars have different names.

What cultivar is this?

This dilemma, issue, or whatever you want to call it is perhaps shown most clearly by the black or almost black hollyhocks that are available.

Now as far as I have been able to ascertain, there are possibly six differently named black hollyhocks:-

1) Nigra

2) Jet Black

3) Arabian Nights

4) The Watchman

5) Black Knight

6) Blacknight

Now Nigra seems well known, but in places Arabian Nights and Jet Black are said to be a synonym. The Watchman was said to have grown in Thomas Jeffersons garden, but others have said this was Nigra – so this could The Watchman also be another synonym of Nigra, meaning four names are given to what is essentially the same plant.

Then you have Suttons Seeds selling a hollyhock called Black Knight (with a K) with Jelitto selling a Blacknight (as part of their spotlight series. Are these the same? If not how have two extremely similar names been allowed for a black hollyhock? Is one trading on the popularity of the other.

For many people this isnt important. They see a photo on a seed packet and just want some almost black hollyhocks. But….. and perhaps its a big but, there are rules about naming plants, that should also apply to seeds and it really seems to be confusing at best and a bit like the Wild West at worst where anything goes.

I am trying to find out more – but at the moment I am none the wiser as to how many black hollyhocks there really are.

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