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The International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants uses as its starting point for modern botanical nomenclature the Latin names in Linnaeus' (1707–1778) Species Plantarum (tenth edition) and Genera Plantarum (fifth edition).I now propose another name, cultivar, for a botanical variety, or for a race subordinate to species, that has originated under cultivation; it is not necessarily, however, referable to a recognized botanical species.It is essentially the equivalent of the botanical variety except in respect to its origin.Most cultivars arose in cultivation, but a few are special selections from the wild.Popular ornamental garden plants like roses, camellias, daffodils, rhododendrons, and azaleas are cultivars produced by careful breeding and selection for floral colour and form.

Similarly, the world's agricultural food crops are almost exclusively cultivars that have been selected for characters such as improved yield, flavour, and resistance to disease, and very few wild plants are now used as food sources.Trees used in forestry are also special selections grown for their enhanced quality and yield of timber.Bailey never explicitly stated the etymology of cultivar, and it has been suggested that it is instead a contraction of cultigen and variety, which seems correct.Bread wheat, Triticum aestivum, is considered a cultigen, and is a distinct species from other wheats according to the biological species concept.The words cultigen and cultivar may be confused with each other.A cultigen is any plant that is deliberately selected for or altered in cultivation, as opposed to an indigen; the Cultivated Plant Code states that cultigens are "maintained as recognisable entities solely by continued propagation".Cultivars form a major part of Liberty Hyde Bailey's broader group, the cultigen, which is a taxonomic rank below subspecies, and there are differences in the rules for creating and using the names of botanical varieties and cultivars.