Have you ever thought it was hard to tell one cultivar of a plant from another? Of course you have. A lot of plants that are introduced aren’t that different from existing varieties and some are exactly the same. Plants can be marketed under more than 1 name.
Introducing new plants is big business and plant breeders know how easily gardeners are seduced by an appealing name. They sprinkle their names with evocative words like sunshine, parfait and blush, and we think we’re looking at a unique plant that we absolutely, positively must have.
A lot of times these plants are not quite unique. Cultivars can be marketed under multiple names. Don’t let the trademark symbol fool you into thinking something is one of a kind. Names are trademarked, not plants.
You know those long list of words on a plant tag that we just glance at, for instance: Potentilla fruticosa ‘Absaraka’ Dakota Goldrush ™. The only thing unique here is the commercial name ‘Dakota Goldrush’. The plant’s patented name is ‘Absaraka’ and whoever holds that patent can license it to other growers to sell under any name they wish.
Trademarked plants are seldom clearly labeled and most of the time it makes little difference to the gardener. But every once in a while it can give you an edge.
Trademarks give exclusive rights to the name of a plant, not the plant itself. The trademarked name does not have to be of a patented plant. Federally registered trademarks are designated with the ® symbol. Those that are not federally registered have the ™ symbol.
Trademarks, like Geranium ‘Gerwat’ Rozanne™ , are not a variety or cultivar name, they are commercial names. And the plant companies don’t have to tell us the those names if they choose not to, although they are usually adamant about listing their patent.
I’m sure your eyes have glossed over the letters PP followed by a handful of numbers, following a plant’s name. The PP stands for “Plant Patent” and the patent number is what follows. PPAF stands for “Plant Patent Applied For” and is pretty much as good as a patent. Plant breeders that receive patents for their new cultivars can maintain exclusive growing rights or license the rights out to others.
To use ‘Rozanne’ as an example again, it’s not uncommon to see it labeled Geranium ‘Rozanne’ PP 12175, with the ‘Gerwat’ omitted.
A Rose Really is a Rose
Decoding is a little easier with roses. Every rose variety is given what’s called a denomination, a truly unique identifier that follows the rose no matter where it’s sold or what it’s called. The tag below is from ‘The Charlatan’ rose, marketed by Star Roses.
The MEIGUIMOV is the denomination. Whatever name the rose is being marketed under, it will always have the same denomination. You may see The Charlatan marketed as Sweet Pretty, Pink Sakurina or even the name it was originally registered as, Astronomia®
To confuse us further, the first 3 letters of the denomination tell us who the breeder is, in this case, MEI = Meilland International. The following letters can give us a hint at the registered name, or at the parentage of the rose. On this tag, I believer the middle and last 3 letters are the names of the parent roses used to breed the hybrid. (GUI = Guinevere, MOV = Mount Vernon). However, they could also be meaningless letters, except to the breeder.
Again, does any of this really matter to the gardener? Probably not, except that it makes you a little more cautious about scooping up every stunning new plant you see. You just may already have it in your garden.