Species, Hybrids, Cultivars & Varieties Explained
Terms that are often confused are species, hybrids, cultivars, and varieties. It is easier than you might think to keep them straight. Here are some ways to look at these words that may help you when you are reading about begonias.
As Charles Darwin said “No one definition has satisfied all naturalists; yet every naturalist knows vaguely what he means when he speaks of a species”.
Only Evolution Can Create a SPECIES
Defining a species is difficult even for taxonomists. Technically it means a natural grouping of similar plants (or organisms) that can interbreed. Usually, a species develops over time when the plant group is isolated and through inbreeding becomes a unique species.
A VARIETY Most Often is the Result of Natural Mutations
In plant taxonomy, a variety is a plant within a species group in nature that forms a trait. The trait is stable and can be reproduced either by seed or by cuttings or grafting.
A HYBRID is either Naturally Occurring or Man-Made
The simplest definition of a hybrid is the combination of two plants with different genetics. Regardless of where they come from, hybrids cannot usually be reproduced by seed and must be clonally reproduced (i.e cuttings, grafting, or tissue culture). If the two plants are from the same species, they are generally considered to have the same genetics and only produce more of the same species (see above).
There are Natural Hybrids and Varieties and there are Man-Made Hybrids & Cultivars.
A CULTIVAR is a Specific, Individual Plant, Usually Man-Made
Most gardeners use the terms variety, hybrid, and cultivar as though they mean the same thing. However, a hybrid is any seedling from a cross between two different genomes, and a variety is usually a natural mutation. So what is a cultivar?
When a hybrid is created, the yield may be hundreds of hybrid seedlings, but only one seedling that is the best – different from the others – and this individual plant gets an individual cultivar name. This specific individual plant should have characteristics that stay the same though it usually takes cloning or cuttings to keep a cultivar consistent. They cannot be reproduced by seed as a general rule.
A SPECIES is a natural grouping of similar plants that can interbreed and reproduce by seed.
A NATURAL HYBRID occurs between 2 species.
A VARIETY or FORM appears naturally within a species, but it has some distinctive trait which sets it apart.
MAN MADE HYBRID GROUPINGS like B. ×tuberhybrida, B. rex cultorum, and others are often confused with species.
A MAN-MADE HYBRID can be a mix of hybrid and/or species genetics.
A CULTIVAR is an individual named seedling, with distinctive characteristics.