BY DANIEL SWEENEY
A few of us may know, or can infer, what the genera vitis or nicotiana refer to. Fewer, perhaps, malus or pyrus. How many of us are familiar with solanum? Humulus? Triticum? Hordeum? Zea?
Marijuana. Pot. Weed. Ganja. Reefer. Whacky tobacky. There are countless names for the drug that has become a cultural mainstay in America today. But the people who grow and sell it, the people who make up — and cater to — the booming industry that is “marijuana,” invariably refer to the drug as “cannabis.” Consciously or not, this is an attempt to reform the public’s view of an increasingly powerful psychoactive drug.
I am a grape grower and a viticulturist by title. I grow wine grapes for vineyard owners and wineries, so I am no stranger to the drug industry or it’s marketing efforts. If I were to use the term vitis with any of my clients I would surely get a raised eyebrow and maybe, if I were lucky, a chuckle.
I grew up in the tobacco country of Virginia and North Carolina. I’m fairly certain that I have never heard a tobacco farmer refer to his crop as “nicotiana.” I’ve worked in both pear and apple orchards and have yet to hear either referred to by their genera pyrus and malus, respectively.
The next time you’re buying tomatoes or potatoes, try asking the farmer or produce manager how the solanum crop was this year. Or maybe ask your local brewer what his favorite variety of humulus for his triticum beers is, or if he prefers 2-row to 6-row hordeum.
Many of us may be familiar with “maize” (another common name for corn) or even it’s origin, Z. mays. But to refer to it as Zea; that would be analogous to using