Hosta collectors have long heard of the term Originator's Stock and how it is seemingly better and worth more money than non-originator's stock. The only problem is that Originator’s Stock is a meaningless term that represents one of the greatest con jobs in the history of horticulture.
Let’s start with a few terms that are necessary to understand why this is so. The first is “clone”. A clone is s single individual plant selected for a specific characteristic or set of characteristics by an individual (the originator). A clone is represented by a clonal cultivar name enclosed in single quotes, like Hosta ‘Empress Wu’. All plants distributed under this name must be genetically identical or they are not this clone. In the US, it is a Federal crime (FTC violation) to sell any product that is not correctly named. Where or who the plant comes from is irrelevant….it either is the correct clone or it is not.
Some people have been able to convince gullible consumers that the size of knife used to divide the plant or the choice of growing media or the make-up of the container somehow effects the value or trueness of the clone. These horticultural con artists have repeated this myth so often, that gullible consumers now are convinced that if the plant is divided with a scalpel instead of a knife, it somehow becomes non-originators stock (a different clone). These same con artists also tout that if a plant is grown on agar as opposed to soil, it is magically transformed into a different plant. This ignorance of basic horticulture is what has allowed the myth of this meaningless term, “Originator's Stock” to be perpetuated.
Plant mutations occur constantly, and any clone, be it a hosta or another plant must be watched to ensure that mutations are not propagated and sold as the original clone. Mutations occur in gardens, they occur in nurseries, and they occur in tissue culture. A mutation is no longer the original clone and cannot legally be sold as such. Originator's stock is simply a superfluous term for saying that the plant in question is the correctly named clone.
Sadly, like all myths spread by the uninformed masses, the myth of originator’s stock will probably keep springing back to life like the characters from a bad horror flick.