Monday, 9 June 2008

New Musifolia Group

I have been in correspondence with several Canna enthusiasts over C. 'Musifolia'. Those who have read the Canna article on Wikipedia will know that the earliest Canna treatise is the French book of 1867, Le Canna, son histoire, sa culture, published by Libraire Centrale d'Agriculture et de Jardinage, and authored by Eduard Chaté and Sons.

In this book the author described a species, already called C. excelsa in England and Germany, as C. musaefolia. It was given this name by Monsieur Théodore Année, the retired French diplomat who created the world's first Canna cultivars.

In earlier times, each country felt justified in giving species their own native names, as International rules of botanical nomenclature did not exist over 150 years ago. Also, International co-operation was unknown, as most of the major powers were at war with each other quite regularly.

Canna (Musifolia Group) 'Peruviana'
The author also described five hybrids created by breeders of the day, Cannas 'Hybrida', 'Minima', 'Peruviana', 'Perfecta', 'Rubra'. Two of these cultivars were said to follow after the species and did not have rhizomes, but 3 of them 'Hybrida', 'Peruviana' and 'Rubra' took after the seed parents and had normal rhizomes. We are growing those three rhizome-based cultivars.

No modern-day taxonomists recognize the species name C. musaefolia, and treat C. excelsa as a synonym of C. latifolia. And none recognize a Canna species without rhizomes.

Nowadays, in the gardens of Canna enthusiasts we have specimens that we call C. 'Musifolia', but we have no way of ever proving their backgrounds. Are they Hybrida, Peruviana or Rubra? The descriptions of each show distinct differences, and Canna enthusiasts should be able to assign their own cultivars to one of these.

My suggestion is that we create another new cultivar group, called Musifolia Group, and all cultivars that have banana-like foliage should be assigned to that group. My proposition is that we should stop worrying about history that we can never prove one way or the other.

We also have two more recent Musifolia Group specimens, namely C. (Musifolia Group) 'Grande' and C. (Musifolia Group) 'Nigra'. In the new group world, we can stop worrying about their (unprovable) history and just look at their physique. Do they have banana-like foliage? If the answer is yes, then they are members of the Canna Musifolia Group. Otherwise they are members of the Canna Foliage Group.

And so we move on...

Observations would be appreciated.


  1. This seems a sensible solution, but where does that leave the "Foliage Group" where most of these old hybrids now find their niche? Do we abolish this Foliage group?

  2. I think that the difference is between the traditional Canna description of cultivars being Canna-like, against those that state that a cultivar could be confused as a Musa specimen. The latter are members of the Musifolia Group!