This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V18", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The history of this variety, as recently given by Mr. Parsons in our pages, has stirred up some of our English friends, and several letters have appeared. Though Mr. Parsons himself tells us that it is only a plant selected from a lot of others, and that it can be kept distinct only in that way, - that is to say, it is but a valuable variety. The discussion turns on what species it really is. It is hard to understand what rule our English friends have for distinguishing species from varieties.
In this case the distinction is of much consequence; for as a good garden variety it has the name. Parsonsiana has the right of priority, and Mr. Gordon is not justified in naming it in his book P. Lowiana. If it be a good species, the rules of Botany require that the botanical description as well as the name should be published, in order to entitle the name to stand. Even though the plant had not been described, and Mr. Gordon were the first to describe it, common courtesy would dictate that a name common in nurseries, used in the Gardeners' Monthly, and in such a prominent publication as Barron's Catalogue, should have the preference over an entirely new one, - especially when that name - Mr. Low's - only comes in as the receiver of the plant from Messrs. Parsons. It may be right in the abstract, and botanists would have to fall in, - but with their own opinion of the fairness of the author taking such a course.
Those botanists, however, who are familiar with the variable character of conifers, and especially of Picea grandis, know well that this is but a variety of that species, and Mr. Parsons' name should and probably will be the name finally adopted to designate it.
B. J., Cincinnati, Ohio, writes: - "In making out a list of rare trees lately, and which I sent to a leading firm, I had Picea grandis and P. Parsonsiana. When the plants came I had two grandis' sent me, with the remark that the two names belonged to one thing. As I think the nurseryman must be wrong, I ask you to decide."
[Yes, the nurseryman is wrong. The form known as Picea Parsonsiana is a very beautiful one - superior to the ordinary form of P. grandis as you buy them in nurseries. The whole of this trouble comes from the unfortunate English habit of giving Latin names to mere varieties. If this had been called the Parsons' variety of Picea grandis, or even the Parsons' Fir "for short," there would have been no difficulty. As Picea "Parsonsiana" it was thought to have claims to distinction as a distinct species - a claim the botanists do not recognize - yet, though it may not be specifically distinct, it is distinct as a variety - and any nurseryman who sends out ordinary nursery forms of grandis for Parsonsiana makes a grievous mistake. - Ed. G. M.]