Notes on Specific Plants
Ohio State University's Plants of Horticulture is a searchable database of nearly 4,000 photographs and descriptions.  It supports searches by scientific and common names. 
The following notes are based partly on visual comparison between how a species looked in historical illustrations and how it looks today.  Hopefully, this information will be helpful in the search for actual antique varieties and for  modern cultivars with the appropriate appearance.  The table uses the common names for plants because some gardeners are not familiar with the Latin names.  Common names and scientific names are cross-referenced in the plant database;  search on the common name to find the plant's genus and species.
Genus Common Name of  Species Notes
Aconitum Monkshood, others little change in appearance since 1600s
Anemone Anemone, Windflower,
Pasque Flower
some species show little change in appearance, including nemorosa, pulsatilla, and coronaria
Aquilegia Columbine form of flowers is unchanged, but look for appropriate colors
Calendula  Pot Marigold different plant than African or French marigolds (genus Tagetes); the plant known in modern times by the name "marigold"  is Tagetes
Convallaria  Lily of the Valley little change in appearance since 1600s;  both pink and white varieties date to the 1600s
Dianthis Carnation, Pink, Sweet William most of hybridizing seems to have focused on caryophilus species, so look for the other species which have changed less
Fritillaria Persian Fritillary, Persian Bells, 
Crown Imperial, Checkered Lily, Guinea Hen Flowers
little change in appearance since 1600s; regaining popularity with gardeners
Helianthus  Sunflower single-flowered and multi-flowered plants were grown during Elizabethan era
Helleborus Hellebore, Christmas Rose little change in appearance since 1600s; regaining popularity with gardeners
Hemerocallis Daylily, Lemon Lily avoid modern hybrids--they don't have the right appearance;  old species are flava (Lemon Lily) and fulva (Daylily)
Hyacinthus Hyacinth modern form has dense flowers on fat stems and does not resemble original plant;  use plants from genus Scilla, which look like Elizabethan hyacinths, as a substitute
Iris Iris hybridizing efforts have focused on the "bearded" species (xiphiodes and xiphium, commonly called German, English, Spanish, or Dutch iris); hybridizers have been  most interested in introducing new color combinations; the form of the plant doesn't look much changed, so choose the colors carefully and these species will still work;
other species look largely unchanged since the 1600s
Leucojum Summer Snowflake, Autumn 
Snowflake, Spring Snowflake, 
Giant Snowflake
this genus is not very popular with modern gardeners, but Sweerts listed  three varieties in his Florilegium (a sales catalog dating from 1612)
Muscari Grape Hyacinths look identical to period illustrations
Narcissus Trumpet Daffodil, Jonquil, 
Narcissus (type is determined 
by relative size of the flower's 
cup and the collar of petals or "perianth")
pink cultivars are modern;
double varieties were grown in Elizabethan age;
bulbocodium and poeticus species look largely unchanged since 1600's
Nicotiana Tobacco species tabacum was grown in 17th c. gardens; modern flowering tobacco is a different species, alata (when was alata introduced?)
Ornithogalum Star of Bethlehem, others handsome plants which are not very popular in modern gardens;  little change in appearance since 1600s
Paeonia Peony species grown in Elizabethan era is officinalis; modern peonies are commonly either lactiflora species or the tree peony species
Physalis Chinese Lantern easy to grow; produces interesting dried flowers (heart-shaped, orange husks)
Rose Rose, Eglantine some nurseries specialize in heirloom roses--look on the Internet or in books about roses;
some modern cultivars look like old varieties--David Austin's English roses resemble rosa centifolia, and the rugosa hybrids resemble the old roses with single flowers (five petals only)
Scilla  Scilla, Squill similar to hyacinth (shape of individual florets is slightly different); little change in appearance since 1600s--in fact, Elizabethan hyacinths looked like today's Scillas, not like the modern hyacinths
Solanum  Potato, Black Nightshade, Bittersweet, Eggplant potato related to poisonous plants, and its tubers are actually poisonous if exposed too long to light
Syringa Lilac avoid hybrids; the 16th century species is vulgaris
Tagetes  Marigold French or signet hybrids look more appropriate (they have single flowers or loose, double flowers) than the dense, pompon types
Tulipa  Tulip common characteristics in 16th and 17th c. tulips--pointed petals,   multiple colors (stripes, specks, flaming), petals slightly wavy and curved-out or "reflexed," and stems shorter than on modern tulips;  the most valuable were the  "broken tulips"--solid colored tulips would "break" into multiple colors when infected by the mosaic virus; 
tulip varieties dating to the 17th century are very rare, so choose modern cultivars that have some of the characteristics of the old tulips;  modern lily-flowered tulips have pointed and reflexed petals;  modern parrot and viridiflora tulips have wavy petals and multiple colors; hybridizers have created "Rembrandt" tulips which imitate the variegated coloring, if not the form, of the old tulips;  "Princess Irene" is a single, early tulip which has  the right appearance--orange blooms striped with red and some green, short stems, and slightly wavy petals;
some nearly-wild tulips are classified as "species tulips;" most of the species tulips were discovered in central Asia within the last 200 years;  tulipa clusiana (the Lady tulip) is a species tulip that was grown in the 17th century and is still widely available
Viola  Pansy, Violet, Heartsease avoid modern-looking hybrids (for example, black pansies)

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