Cultigen Info Wanted

Piers Trehane Piers at
Fri Aug 11 04:23:56 EST 1995

In article <tntsg.30.00FA1E89 at>
           tntsg at "Shirley I. Greenwood" writes:

> I can only find a dictionary term for *cultigen* which states that it is 
> *a plant assumed to have originated in cultivation, and unknown as a wild 
> plant.  Cabbage and cauliflower are cultigens, as well as many other garden 
> plants.*

Hi Shirley,

Your dictionary is wrong here!  The term "cultigen" was coined by the great
American botanist L.H.Bailey to cover _species_ assumed to originate under
the hand of man.  At the same time he invented the term "indigen" to cover
_species_ thought to originate in the wild.  To be pedantic, a plant may
belong to a cultigen or an indigen.  Not everyone recognizes Bailey's
distinction and it is not always easy to recognize from a species name alone
what is natural and what is man-made.  To discover that you really have to
interpret the information provided when the species name was first published!

Cultigens are often very ancient groups of plants whose origins are lost in
the proverbial depths of time.  Most of the cereals and citrus fruits for
example are ancient and very complex resulting from man's activity in trying
to improve crop yields, his diet and to add flavour for his taste-buds.

The potato (named Solanum tuberosum by Linnaeus) is a cultigen: what Linnaeus
had in mind when he described it was not known in the wild in that form.  He
had some man-made cultivated plant in mind which incidentally has long been
superceded by a better variety.
> Does anyone have a known list of cultigens or anymore general information on 
> the subject?  I'd appreciate some help on this.

Unravelling these cultigens is a tricky business but _somewhere_ in the heaps
of papers around here I do have a list of cultigens.  When I unearth it, I
will post the reference to this group.


 Piers Trehane  -  Editor of "INDEX HORTENSIS"
 & Chief Editor of the forthcoming (1995)
 International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants
 Hampreston Manor, Wimborne, Dorset BH21 7LX, UK
 piers at

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