Monday, 15 July 2013

Hybrids Update




 ‘High-breds’ or wanting weeds?

What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered..
RALPH WALDO EMERSON

Gerhard Marx
marx.gerhard@gmail.com

I have much appreciation for people who enjoy Haworthia hybrids. It reveals the fact that they have a true admiration for the beauty of each individual plant. Our friends in the East seem to have a superior inherent ability for such focused visual appreciation. They appear to look through unspoilt eyes that had been educated to appreciate the subtle colour blending in a jade carving or glazed pottery while our western eyes appear to be suffering from the malnourishment of sparkling candy wrappers and Christmas decorations. But wait, perhaps I am generalizing. Fact remains, the ability to evaluate and appreciate plants purely based upon the character and beauty of each individual is particularly welcome in Haworthia where a tendency seemed to have developed to value only plants with habitat data. Besides, it is ironically becoming more and more evident that there are in fact rather few fully distinct Haworthia species in the wild and that a majority of wild populations suggest complicated transitional interaction that does not exclude periodic natural hybridization. The fact that all members within each sub-genus can hybridize very readily with each other further implies that geographic separation and flowering times are the main efficient barriers applied by nature to keep the various elements separate.
A wonderful feature encountered in all wild populations of Haworthias as well as within batches of seedlings grown in cultivation is the great variation in the appearance of the individual plants. Textures, colours and decorative patterns vary greatly amongst individuals and a number of plants often display exceptionally attractive combinations of features. These attractive plants are then selected and used to give rise to beautiful cultivars by crossing it with equally attractive members of the same kind. Similarly, the best hybrids are also obtained by using the most attractive clones as parents.
In the case of both pure cultivars and hybrid seedlings, the attractive features of the parents are readily inherited by a number of the seedlings and often stunningly enhanced. When creating hybrids the combinations of the features can only be guessed but when selected good looking parents are used, the results will seldom disappoint.
I have often remarked that some of the most attractive Haworthias in my greenhouse are hybrids. I might also have added that some of the least attractive Haworthias in my greenhouse are also hybrids. But perhaps that is another reason why I have a special appreciation for hybrids as they reflect the basic truth of the dualistic nature of life on this planet. Good and bad being the opposite ends of the same stretchable string.
In addition there is the element of the magical and mysterious as one can only partially predict the outcome of any combination. Sometimes the results are far better than predicted, like for example crosses between H. archeri (marumiana) var. dimorpha and H. magnifica var. splendens. Really stunning results were obtained by the latter combination of which ‘Black Knight’ is an example. In contrast, hybrids between very attractive clones of H. badia and H. magnifica var. splendens yielded mostly less eye-catching results than anticipated. But then one is immediately reminded of the excellent results obtained by Bob Kent by crossing H. badia with H. wimii (=magnifica/ emelyae var. major) which yielded the famous and very beautiful ‘Bev’s Wonder’ hybrids.
Haworthia 'Bev's Wonder' X H. 'Aluminum Star'

Hybrids also force us to realize and appreciate the distinctiveness of each individual plant. Not only is there much greater variation between siblings from the same batch of seed but obtaining the exact same results by using the same parents is not quite possible. For example, I have tried repeatedly to create another ‘Lombard Star’ that matches the plant pictured herewith by using the exact same parentage and although a variety of very beautiful plants resulted, not a single one matched the appearance of the original ‘Lombard Star’ precisely. 

Haworthia 'Lombard Star' original.
Haworthia 'Lombard Star' series.

Haworthia 'Lombard Star' series.

Haworthia 'Lombard Star' series.

Hybrid vigour:
Mention must also be made of a very fascinating occurrence frequently found in hybrids and that is the relatively fast growth and vigorous behaviour of seedlings. This is of course the well-known ‘hybrid vigour’ or ‘heterosis’ that is often referred to when offspring display superior qualities to the parents.
A very good example of this was observed when the somewhat unwilling-to-be-propagated and rather slow growing Haworthia magnifica var. splendens was crossed with the extremely slow growing and irrefutably difficult Haworthia marxii. The seed were sown on the same day (7th May 2008) along with batches of pure seed of both H. marxii and H. magnifica var. splendens. Three years later the seedlings of H. splendens X marxii were 6.5 cm wide mature adult flowering plants of which the best clones had already been used as parents for new hybrid combinations. In contrast, the largest May 2008 seedlings of H. marxii measured only 2.5 cm wide after three years and they may not reach flowering size before 2014 or 2015 if I must guess. The May 2008 seedlings of H. splendens measured just under 4 cm wide after three years.
Haworthia splendens X H. marxii.

When I sent photographs of above-mentioned seedlings to a friend, he aptly remarked: “Interesting that one can cross two slow-growing rarities and the resulting seedlings grow like weeds!”
 In an article titled ‘Bastard Beauties’ published in Alsterworthia 9(3) in November 2009 a number of my own best Haworthia hybrid results were illustrated, named and discussed.
Since then my production of Haworthia hybrids has increased and many hundreds of seedlings are in the process of developing. A few of the largest of these are illustrated herewith. As is evident, my emphasis and preferences are restricted mostly to the most attractive retusoid species. I seldom cross-pollinate amongst the ‘soft-leaved’ and green types unless I use a retuse-leaved species as partner. I seldom use H. truncata and H. maughanii as parents because the results are often just grotesque asymmetrical clumps of semi-truncate leaves and generally not attractive in terms of colour. My aim is to obtain neat and compact and very flat retuse-leaved rosettes with unusual texture and colour combinations. If the leaves are somewhat elongated and strongly ‘H. badia-like’ recurved , like in the cases of ‘Aluminum Star’, ‘Tripple B’ and ‘Lombard Star’, then I feel I have reached my goal.
Haworthia 'Avalon' . A rare case of an attractive hybrid with H. truncata/ maughanii in the parentage. 'Avalon' is the result of cross-pollination involving amongst others, H. maughanii and H. mutica 'Drew White'.

Although it is occasionally possible to cross Haworthias across the sub-generic borders, I seldom tried it so far. I did pollinate retuse-leaved Hexangulares like H. koelmaniorum and its variety mcmurtryii as well as H. bruynsii with H. splendens, H. badia, H. marxii, etc. whenever some flowering overlapped as well as H. emelyae, H. bayeri and other members of subgenus Haworthia that regularly share the same flowering period, but with very few fruits and no exceptional seedlings resulting to date. Hybrids between H. bruynsii and H. koelmaniorum were easy and very successful (and also growing with typical hybrid vigour) but also not remarkably attractive.
Apart from the low success rate I have had by cross-pollinating Haworthias from different sub genera, an additional reason for my reluctance to do so is because such hybrids are mostly sterile in my experience. The advantage of hybrids within the same sub-genus is that they are fertile and one can continue to produce many new F2 and F 3 generations by using the most successful hybrids as parents. At the moment I have many seedlings with ‘Lombard Star’, ‘Aluminum Star’, ‘Toff-o-Lux’, ‘Pink Nebula’ etc. as parents. I have to admit that keeping up with the parentage and marking each fruit with coloured thread as I initially did gradually became simply impossible due to the amount of plants that became available to work with.
Although these hybrid seedlings develop comparatively fast, it still takes at least three years on average before they start showing their ‘true colours’. Any Haworthia propagator will know that initially seedlings generally lack the colours, textures and patterns of adult plants. In some cases, like H. truncata and H. maughanii, it may take up to 5 years before a rather dull-looking seedling will suddenly start developing attractive facial lines. Years ago Bob Kent said to me that with H. truncata and var. maughanii seedlings on can easily wait up to seven years before you know which ones can be discarded. And, of course, the older they become the more attractive they develop.

References:
Marx, Gerhard. 2009. Alsterworthia 9 (3): 2 – 12. Bastard Beauties.


Haworthia 'Dracula' series

Haworthia 'Earth Emblem'

Haworthia 'Flicka' series
Haworthia 'Earth Emblem' X 'Bev's Wonder'
Haworthia 'Glossy Garnet'

Haworthia groenewaldii, selected seedling.

Haworthia groenewaldii selected seedling.

Haworthia bobii, selected seedling

Haworthia bobii, selected seedling.

Haworthia 'Lombard Star' X 'Kent's Wonder'

Haworthia 'Lombard Star' X 'Pink Nebula'

Haworthia badia X 'Lombard Star'


Haworthia mutica 'Mumun'

Haworthia 'Noble Star' series

Haworthia 'Noble Star' series.

Haworthia 'Noble Star' series.

Haworthia 'Kent's Wonder' X ' Tripple B'.


Haworthia 'Noble Star' series.

Haworthia 'Peter Pan'.



Haworthia sordida 'Mint Cream'.

Haworthia splendens, selected seedling.


Haworthia splendens, selected seedling.

Haworthia splendens, 'Toffee'.

Haworthia splendens, white seedling.

Haworthia 'Zenith'

Haworthia badia , selected seedling.

Haworthia 'D-Light' X H. marxii.

Haworthia badia , rough seedling.

Haworthia badia, pimpled seedling.

Haworthia bayeri hybrid.

Haworthia bayeri hybrid.

Haworthia bayeri hybrid.

Haworthia bayeri hybrid.

Haworthia bayeri, selected seedling.

Haworthia splendens GM 447, seedling.


Haworthia splendens, white seedling.

Haworthia splendens GM 452.

Haworthia splendens GM 452 ' Collage'.

Haworthia 'D-Light' X H. comptoniana.


9 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing these beauties and your knowledge

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi dear Mr.Marx,many thanks for sharing your experience. I have 2 question:
    1- are there any formulas for generating hybrids in books or articles or these are secrets for each person? For example for generating greonwaldii which haworthias are needed?
    2- you say it is better to cultive haworthias seeds with density ( more seeds in area)but how we can separate and recognise which seeds is for which hybrids?
    Thanks for your reply and support

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Arash, There are no secrets involved with creating Haworthia hybrids. I found that any species of the genus Haworthia can be hybridized with any other Haworthia. So it is just a matter of transferring pollen between any two attractive plants of one’s choice. Haworthia groenewaldii is a good species found in the wild and not a hybrid. It is still relatively new and was discovered only a few years ago and there are taxonomists who suffer from chronic resistance against new names and who still refuse to recognize it and tried to lump it as synonymn of H. mutica.
      I do sow my seeds very densely because germination is better that way. I will plant all the ‘Black Knight’ seeds together and all the ‘Lombard Star’ seeds together for example, but in each case the plants had been pollinated with various other hybrids or species, so the seedlings are quite variable and one is not always 100% sure about the exact parentage. Mostly though, I can look at the seedlings and take a good guess what the parents were because I do remember reasonably well what plants I used to pollinate with each other. When I am not sure, I will just label the plant as ‘Black Knight series complex hybrid’ for example. The exact parentage is not all that important anyway, only the appearance of the plants and in most of the best cases I will give the new hybrid a new name.

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  3. Hi Dear Mr. Marx

    Many thanks for your kindness and support. Would you please tell me about below items:

    1- Is haworthia mordor an hybrid or no?
    2- would you please tell me your experience about fertilising the haworthias? Fertilising Mothers and fertilising after saw the haworthias seeds?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Dear Mr.Marx
    you mean the haworthias which are themselves hybrids are not suitable for creating new hybrids and we have to just use main genus haworthias for generating hybrids?
    thanks for your supports and replies

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dear Arash,
    *Firstly, Haworthia ‘Mordor’ is a hybrid created by Mr Yu Hanai in Japan. I suspect H springbokvlakensis may be involved as parent but I do not know the exact parentage.
    * I rarely fertilize my Haworthias. Seedlings I fertilize once they are about a year old and use hydroponic (Chemicult) fertilizer. Rarely when I do fertilize adults I use a low Nitrogen fertilizer with trace elements. Mostly I simply re-pot a plant in fresh soil when it looks nutrient deficient.
    *You seem to suspect some complicated tricks to create Haworthia hybrids, but it is very simple and straightforward. One can use hybrids or pure species as parents. Many of my hybrids are already complex hybrids - ( hybrid X hybrid) X ( hybrid X hybrid) and as long as all are members of the (sub-)genus Haworthia, they accept pollen and make fruits. Only with Haworthia X Haworthiopsis and Haworthia X Tulista hybrids does it happen that such hybrids are often sterile and do not make fruits, but that happen rarely.

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  6. Hi Dear Mr.Marx
    Many thanks for your explanations. regarding my previous item about secrets in generating hybrids I think because of my weakness in English I couldn’t describe my question well but for example as you told you guess that the mordor is an hybrid springbokvlakensis x ?????? Which only Mr.Yu Hanai knows exact parentage. I mean is this a secret generator the famous hybrids or there is some books or articles or ... which in we could find the parentage for generating for example haworthia mordor or other famous and beauty hybrids?
    Thanks for your reply
    Best Regards

    ReplyDelete
  7. There is a 270 page book by Dr M. Hayashi called ‘Total List of Haworthia Cultivars’ ( Haworthia Study No. 28, 2013) but most of the text is in Japanese. The cultivar names and parentage are given in English but not the breeder names and other text. I think it may still be available from the Haworthia Society of Japan or perhaps you can contact Dr Hayashi via e-mail - m-hayashi@nausica.jp.

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  8. Thanks dear Mr.Marx. You are great.πŸ™πŸ»πŸ™πŸ»πŸ™πŸ»πŸ™πŸ»πŸŒΉ

    ReplyDelete