‘Rubrum’, ‘Fire King’, ‘Sky Rocket’ and ‘Cherry Sparkler’ rescued

Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum' – photo: Vitroflora

Pennisetum advena ‘Rubrum’ – photo: Vitroflora

On 12 July 2017 the European Commission updated the list of invasive alien species and added among other ornamental plants Pennisetum setaceum to that list. From then on the cultivation and trade of various well-known varieties which were sold as Pennisetum setaceum cultivarswere forbidden in the European Union. DNA research, however, showed that the naming of these ornamental grasses was not correct, reports the leading Dutch trade magazine for hardy nursery stock De Boomkwekerij. Numerous species appeared to have no affinity at all with Pennisetum setaceum and are not considered anymore as invasive plants. The name of the species is from now on Pennisetum advena. The correct scientific names of well-known cultivars as ‘Rubrum’, ‘Fire King’, ‘Samba’, ‘Sky Rocket’ and ‘Cherry Sparkler’ are therefor Pennisetum advena ‘Rubrum’, Pennisetum advena ‘Fire King’, Pennisetum advena ‘Samba’, Pennisetum advena ‘Sky Rocket’ and Pennisetum advena ‘Cherry Sparkler’.
Pennisetum advena
Actually, the name Pennisetum advena is to some extend already familair to the trade. The National Parks Board of Singapore for instance, notes in a description of Pennisetum x advena ‘Rubrum’ on their website that in the ornamental plant industry, this cultivar is often mistakenly referred to as Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’. Talking about the taxonomy the National Parks Board mentions the American grass taxonomist Joseph Wipff who determined, based on breeding experiments this cultivar as a hybrid between Pennisetum macrostachyum and Pennisetum setaceum. Another source that uses the name Pennisetum advena ‘Rubrum’ is the Southern Tablelands and South Coast Regional Noxious Plants Committee website from Australia.
Joint initiative
This rescue operation was a joint initiative of LTO Cultuurgroep Vaste Planten, CNB, Vitroflora, Pierre den Ouden Plants and Naktuinbouw that negotiated with the Dutch ministery of Economic Affairs and the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority.
In Germany, the horticultaral umbrella organization ZVG (Zentralverband Gartenbau) came to the same conclusion after consultation with Wipff. The taxonomist informed the ZVG that ‘Rubrum’ and other red-leaved varieties belong to the species Pennisetum advena and should not be classified as invasive.
Pennisetum setaceum and true Pennisetum setaceum cultivars are still banned in the European Union.