Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Canna 'Trinacria Variegata', a record holder

Because cannas developed for nearly a century on separate continents, without a lot of communication between them, the result has been countless synonyms. It is proving interesting in reconciling the synonys and creating some order out of the name chaos. The record holder for the number of synonyms has to be Canna 'Trinacria Variegata'.

It is a small Italian Group cultivar; variegated foliage, oval shaped, white margin, spreading habit; round stems, coloured green + purple; flowers are reflexed, yellow and white, staminodes are large, petals red; seed is sterile, pollen is low fertile; rhizomes are long and thin, coloured white; tillering is average.

Eye-catching variegated leaves, with large butter-yellow blooms, marked by this plants signature - a white stripe down the centre of each petal forming a white cross. Variegated leaves of green with pale yellow variegation parallel to the veins. There are several different strains with varying degree of variegation distinction, but the flower type and its size seems uniform between them all.

Nurserymen folk legend has it that in 1923 a consignement of Canna 'Trinacria' rhizomes was despatched to Siam, now Thailand, from a nursery in California. When it arrived at its destination and was grown out it was found to have variegated foliage. A sample was returned to the nursery with a demand for a refund or replacement as it was not what had been ordered.

This mutation was probably caused by the extreme conditions endured in transport from California to Thailand in the days before air travel. The cultivar was examined in the 1960's by Dr. Khoshoo, who stated that this was not a chimeral mutation.

After much research, I can confirm that the earliest reference to this cultivar is as C. 'Trinacria Variegata' in Sydney Percy-Lancaster's book, "An Amateur in an Indian Garden", 1927. Under the International Rules of Cultivar Nomenclature this has to be treated as the correct name, and all of the others are to be treated as synonyms.

The record number of synonyms discovered so far are:
  1. C. 'Bangkok'
  2. C. 'Bangkok Yellow'
  3. C. 'Bankocki'
  4. C. 'Bankok'
  5. C. 'Christ's Light'
  6. C. 'King of Siam'
  7. C. 'Minerva'®
  8. C. 'Nirvana'
  9. C. 'Striped Beauty'
  10. C. 'Striped Beauty of Bangkok'
  11. C. 'Stripped Beauty'
  12. C. 'variegata'
  13. C. 'Variegated'

An amusing aside, about three years ago, while perusing spring bulb offerings in our local Blooms gardening centre I encountered a packet of Canna rhizomes labelled as Canna 'Striped Beauty', the cultivars favourite synonym, but something had gone badly wrong with the picture (above) on the packaging. The foliage was correct, and definately C. 'Striped Beauty', but the flowers belonged to a totally different Canna, they were yellow with orange spots, possibly C. 'Golden Girl', or something like that.

Now, the flowers of C. 'Trinacria Variegata' are held about 25 cm (10 inches) above the top of the foliage. The packaging designer had obviously decided to improve on nature and superimpose a lot of flowers just above the top of the foliage, the most desirable position, and had done so very professionally, you can't see any joins, but had got confused and used the wrong flowers! An object lesson to all who try to improve on what nature gives us.

Finally, I have to confess that my favourite synonym is C. 'Stripped Beauty', it leaves the imagination boggling! The web site using that name probably meant C. 'Striped Beauty', but made a spelling error. It has displayed that name for over three years without noticing, and nobody seems to care to mention it to them!

1 comment:

  1. Isn't it about time that people chose just the one name and stuck to it?