In a Vase on Monday: Taxing Taxonomy

I am once again happy to join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden in putting together a Monday vase full of materials from my garden.

Not an easy task in November, but not yet an impossible one!

Apart from some sorry looking roses and almost black sedums, there is not much going on in the garden now. My Hypericum still looks lovely, but I am unwilling to cut any more of that as it can be seen so well from the living room window. So today I picked some Persicaria, still flowering like mad. ๐Ÿ™‚

However, I am still confused as to what I should call them…

Persicaria, Poylgonum, Bistorta?

Wikipedia was no help: ‘The generic placement of this species is in flux. While treated here in Persicaria, it has also been placed in Polygonum or Bistorta.’

What has confused me is the continued use of ‘Persicaria’ in the UK while ‘Polygonum’ seems to be the most frequently used name here in Germany. I can see my Persicaria amplexicaulis listed as Polygonum amplexicaule or Bistorta amplexicaulis. But other Persicarias can be Polygonum Bistorta, Persicaria bistorta, Bistorta officinalis, or…. wait for it…. even ‘Aconogonon’. ย ??? The online nursery I order from has helpfully explained that due to the constant shuffling of names going on they are continuing to use the name ‘Polygonum’ with a relaxed attitude in case there should be another change of opinion soon!

Maybe we should go back to common names after all…. Some are quite nice, like ‘Mountain Fleece’. Others not so nice, like ‘Knotweed’ or ‘Snakeweed’, and even the German (translated) ‘Toothbrush’!

Well, my vase contains: Polygonum amplexicaulis ‘Firetail’,ย Polygonum microcephala ‘Red Dragon’,ย Polygonum amplexicaule ‘Blackfield’ย andย Polygonum amplexicaule ‘Album’. And should anyone ask I would call them all Persicarias for the sake of simplicity!

What would you call them?



55 thoughts on “In a Vase on Monday: Taxing Taxonomy

  1. OH gosh, now I assumed that Persicaria was the newest accepted name for them, at least in the UK – I think I will just pretend I didn’t read your post and continue calling ghem that! Your Firetail is wonderful – as I probably mentioned before mine flowered quite poorly whereas Blackfield is still going strong. This is increasingly becming one of my favourite groups of plants at the moment ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Cathy, it is exciting to me to see these shifts in classification. I love for things to be sorted out and eventually maybe it all will be. What I don’t like is finding out everyone else knew the new name while I’m still using one out of favor. In the end, it’s all good. The winsome red in your vase seems perfect for this time of year. Have a wonderful week.

  3. I just can’t keep up with name changes so I have let them slide for now….as you see I use generic names for most of my flowers. This is one gorgeous vase, fitting for the holidays and would look great against the backdrop of snow in my garden right now.

    • I don’t think we really need to keep up with them as most gardeners stick to the old names anyway! Hope your snow is the pretty sort, and not disruptive for holiday travel. We have had some wet sleet and snow… and a few warmer days are forecast now too. Have a lovely Thanksgiving Donna.

  4. An ongoing discussion Cathy; one I’ve focused on a couple of times. I’ve decided not to worry too much any more. Unless I decide to write a book (unlikely!) I will call plants by the name I have used over a number of years; more up-to-date gardeners may laugh behind their hands if they wish but as long as most people know what you’re talking about I think it’s OK. Lovely vase BTW, what ever you call the flowers!

  5. You have made me laugh with the word toothbrush! Have I read it right? Iโ€™ve bought a beautiful white persicaria, and also a very pretty one called Orange Field. Flowers for ages. Still in flower today. Thanks for sharing. I googled blackfield persicaria and got a website selling poodles. Thought that might make you laugh ๐Ÿ™‚ karen

    • When names fail me then I always refer to the colour. My partener’s Mum did it with many flowers and we always knew exactly what she meant! (e.g. the ‘yellow ones’ were the Forsythia, and the ‘red ones’ were the purply red Asters she had!)

  6. Whatever name you call them by, they’re beautiful. Persicaria/Polygonum/Bistorta isn’t particularly common in my area and I’ve never seen a variety with such vibrant and fluffy blooms. For what it’s worth, I’ve discovered that many of the growers I buy plants from are taking the same tact as the on-line nursery you consulted – they plan to rename their plants if and when the taxonomists settle their quarrels, which is fine by me. The constant changes are enough to make your head spin, or push you back to using common names (even if those vary by location too).

    • Hi Kris. That is the problem with common names… they can vary from place to place. My Mum used to grow tiny white Chrysanthemums, which we called Bachelor’s Buttons. Most people associate cornflowers with that name though!

  7. Cathy, if you call them now Polygonum, which is your “correct” name, I will follow you, calling you Persicaria. All they do is confuse gardeners with names. All your Persiaries are precious and you have placed them so that they remain divine in the jarron. Is very pretty. Greetings from Margarita.

  8. I just call them “stunning!” I have a very difficult time remembering the proper name of plants and flowers, but I can admire them without a name. Beautiful, Cathy. I so admire your knowledge of your garden varieties, and you do inspire me. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • ๐Ÿ™‚ What a nice thing to say Debra. Thank you! The names aren’t really important until you start trying to find a particular plant or want to recommend it to someone! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. I would simply call them beautiful. What vibrant reds! I like your vase sitting on your botanical books, Cathy. That tells a lovely story in and of itself.

    I’ve reread the common names, and I think I’ll go with mountain fleece. It sounds cozy.

  10. I would call them persicarias Cathy but then as a certain well known playwright wrote “What’s in a name? “I’m still using aster instead of eurybia and as for dicentra spectablis the new name has passed me by completely. I think it begins with an L. Whatever their name they are absolute stars when it comes to late colour and your vase is most attractive.

    • Eurybia? Oh dear, I missed that one! I thought they had been renamed Sympho…. something or other. LOL! And the new dicentra name is something to do with lamps. Lampo….???? No, I will stick to the names I (and most of us) know and love!

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