The AHS Commission Report: A Critique
Bill Meyer
   In 2013, an AHS committee called the AHS Cultivar Origination Commission released a report to AHS members which detailed their findings in their investigation into the origin of the Aden plants. This committee was formed by then-president Douglas Beilstein in response to the formation of the independent investigative committee of which I was a part. The findings the AHSCOC reported were not made available to the public.
To summarize the AHSCOC final report, they recommend the following:

1. Credit be given to Florence Shaw for only 16 of the plants Aden registered.
2. Credit be given to Kevin Vaughn for only 8 of the plants Aden registered.
3. Credit be given to Chet Tompkins for only 'Floradora' and 'Flamboyant', yet that Aden be credited for its common sport 'Shade Fanfare'.
4. That the registrations for 'Color Glory', 'On Stage', and 'Great Expectations' be changed to show the originators as McBurnie, Japan, and J. Bond respectively. 
5. Aden be credited as originator on the 19 plants registered with "Abba" prefixes (excluding plants registered by others such as 'Abba Dabba Do'.) 
6. One last recommendation, because of widely known stories about Aden making up parentage information, is that all parentage information consisting of just numbers be changed to unknown, but where hosta names are used that they remain unchanged.
7. A few additional recommendations not concerning plants Aden was solely credited for.
8. All remaining Aden registrations should just be marked "unknown."

   This committee operated in an AHS political environment that was vehemently opposed to any changes whatsoever in the Aden registrations. The chair of this committee, former AHS president Tom Micheletti himself said in board communication that only "100% Proof" would be acceptable for changing any of the registrations to show a different originator. It should be noted that in the U.S. capital murder cases are often decided on far less than 100% proof. I do laud other committee members for standing up to get a small number of the more popular ones credited to their originators. 
   That said, there are many things wrong with the AHS Cultivar Origination Committee's final report. They refer to evidence repeatedly yet offered no standard by which they evaluated said evidence to make a decision. For example, they accepted Kevin Vaughn's identification of some plants that he reported taken by Aden without his permission, yet denied others he identified in the same communication with no explanation given. They accepted his claim that 'Fragrant Bouquet', 'So Sweet', and 'Fragrant Blue' were his, yet denied him credit for 'Wide Brim' and 'Invincible', but offer no explanation of why some but not others while referring vaguely to "conclusive evidence." In presenting their report as an official and conclusive evaluation of the originatorship of the Aden registrations, they ignored the need to make clear what process they judged evidence by. In doing so, the decisions they made appear whimsical and unfounded.
   They did not go beyond clear identification with most of the Shaw and Vaughn plants, even when the case was overwhelmingly in favor of it. In 1974, Aden, who had not been hybridizing or growing seed, registered the first four plants he had apparently acquired from Florence Shaw. They were 'Blue Cadet', 'Gold Cadet', 'Gold Regal', and 'Sun Glow'. The commission accepted only 'Blue Cadet', despite 'Gold Cadet' obviously being similar breeding, and the other two having no other possible source that we could find.
   One of their more unusual decisions regards 'Flamboyant', which Chet Tompkins claimed was his origination that he had sold a piece of to Aden. While it seems clear that the plant was Tompkins', and the committee accepted that, they for unexplained reasons decided that the stable form 'Shade Fanfare' should be credited to Aden. Tompkins surely would have had that stable form before selling it to Aden, and there was no evidence at all that Aden had it first. Additionally there is the question of whether the sport of a plant acquired by dishonest means should be credited to the person who originated the sporting plant or to the person who had acquired that plant. One other factor is whether the plants were already named by Tompkins as 'Sheer Bliss' (streaked) and 'Sunny Smiles' (stable).
   Another strange decision concerns the later-registered "Abba" plants. We have uncovered no evidence to date regarding the origins of these, and the Commission mentions none. Of all the Aden registrations, the origins of these to me seem the most unknown and possibly unknowable. Without offering any explanation whatsoever or mentioning any evidence, the Commission simply decided that all of those truly were Aden originations. Some of these are sports of Florence Shaw's 'Sun Power' and 'Sum and Substance' and Kevin Vaughn's 'Invincible', which may have come from TC production of them, which again raises the issue of who should receive credit for sports of stolen plants. Others seem to be seedlings and are registered with phony Aden numbers as parentage and their origin is shrouded in the fog of Aden's deceptions. With virtually no knowledge of their apparently mixed origins, it seemed the "Abba" group was selected to mollify those who want Aden to have credit for something. 
   Then there is the strange case of the parentage recommendation. On his registrations, Aden filled in the parentage line with two types of information. On some he used only numbers, while on others he used plant names. The latter look more convincing, but he himself made up those names to put on plants he acquired that were as yet unnamed. While they acknowledge that Aden made up the parentage on his registrations, they for unexplained reasons decided against the numbered parentages and to accept the parentage with plant names. This makes for some frankly ridiculous situations like that of 'Fascination', a plant he acquired in 1974 or 1975 from Birchwood. Aden registered it as a seedling of 'Flamboyant', a plant he acquired from Tompkins years later. He registered 'Flamboyant' as his own seedling from "X-Ray treated seed". Both plants were registered the same year - 1978. 

   I find that the rush of the commission to "finish" the Aden plant investigations is premature with important evidence still to be found. We are still searching for Florence Shaw's hybridizing records which may still exist, and we have not thoroughly reviewed the original registration cards to see if Aden did indeed put the actual originators on any of them, although it is believed he did not. The decision to present this as a final report gives the impression that all evidence was carefully examined and weighed under a clear evidence standard when no such standard is included or apparently was used, and some decisions appear completely arbitrary because of the lack of any evidence mentioned or that our independent committee is aware of.
   It is hard to separate the decisions of this committee from the political pressure asserted by certain AHS officials upon it. Those officials wanted no changes from the start and made that amply clear, yet the commission did recommend a small number be changed, including some of the most important plants. The report frankly looks like an attempt to seek compromise between those who think none should be considered Aden's and those in AHS political positions who think they all should be, including rather clearly the president who commissioned them and the past president who chaired the committee. This type of political gesture if that is what it was has no place in determining the actual originators and placing credit where it should be placed.
   One thing I find particularly objectionable myself are the following statements from the AHSCOC that are included in their report:

"It should be emphasized that many of Florence Shaw’s plants possibly might never have been introduced, or even known, if not for Paul Aden acquiring and introducing them... Paul Aden must be credited for recognizing the important value of Florence Shaw’s, and also Kevin Vaughn’s, originations..."

   While it is clear that Aden did in fact recognize the value of the groundbreaking work of those two hybridizers in particular and that of others, making an unnecessary statement like this in an official report seems morally and ethically questionable. Elsewhere in their reports, they clearly state they believe the plants were stolen from Shaw and Vaughn. While I suspect it is the result of the political pressure exerted on the committee, it seems akin to "crediting" the art thief after the museum heist for having a good eye for valuable paintings. Then, of course, the art thief doesn't then try to pass off the art as his own. 

   The release of this final report is detailed in AHS board minutes (Fall 2013), where the executive committee voted to instruct the registrar to ignore the recommendation to put "unknown" on the bulk of the Aden registrations, returning them to just showing Aden's name. This motion was made by former president Beilstein, seconded by Hosta Journal editor Bob Olson,  and the vote was not recorded. As of this writing the registrar has yet to act.