The Gardeners Chronicle. July
27, 1850. p. 470.
Amaryllid Hybrids Down Under
John Carne Bidwill
Cape Amaryllids.—In the Chronicle of July 28, 1849, I observed a communication from Mr. Beaton on the crossing of certain kinds of these plants. I formerly had a great fancy for Amaryllids, but I have lost the greater part of my interest in them since the death of Dean Herbert, as I now know no person having a like interest to whom I can communicate my results. I have tried several of the experiments which your correspondent wishes to try, and perhaps he may like to know the success I met with.
I do not think the fleshy-seeded Amaryllidaceae are generally good subjects for the labors of the hybridist, because he must stop (in general) with the first cross, the mules being almost always barren. I also believe that certain Crinums are capable of bearing seed without true impregnation, and few things are more disgusting than to wait seven or eight years, and then to find out that you have only raised a pure plant. I am quite convinced that in many instances when I applied the pollen of Haemanthus, Amaryllis, Nerine, Ammorchari, and Brunsvigia to the stigmas of a certain plant of Crinum pedunculatum that there was no other plant of Crinum in flower for several miles, and that I extracted all the anthers for several days before the expansion of the flower, yet of the hundreds of seeds I obtained, none produced anything but pure C. pedunculatum.
I obtained abundance of seed from Cyrtanthus obliquus by Vallota purpurea, but could never make it vegetate. I could never obtain seed in the reverse manner.
I imagine that the raising, in England, of crosses between the Amaryllises is about as unpromising a task as any experimentalist could undertake. In Herbert's "Amaryllidaceae," p. 278, mention is made of some seedlings raised from Amaryllis blanda by A. Josephiniana. In 1843 Mr. Herbert had the kindness to give me one of these bulbs, which was then, he told me, 20 years old, and was not so big as a goose's egg. It would not, in all probability, have flowered in England in 20 years more; in a suitable climate, such as that of my present residence, it would probably have flowered in four years, but it was destroyed by accident.
I never saw A. blanda in flower, and now only possess two seedling bulbs, given to me by Mr. Herbert, which are expected to flower this season. (If I get any pollen I will send some to Mr. Beaton to impregnate Belladonna with.) If it should flower, I will repeat Mr. Herbert's experiment, and also raise some crosses between it and Belladonna.
I raised, in Feb. 1841, a vast number of seedlings from Belladonna by Josephinae, and by Brunsvigia multiflora. Belladonna bears many more seeds when impregnated by either of these plants than when naturally impregnated, but the seeds are much smaller. These seedlings flowered for the first time in March 1847, and are extremely beautiful. Their colour is generally like that of Passiflora Kermesina, but it varies in different specimens, and many are blotched with white—20 to 40 on a scape. The shape varies greatly, the crosses by B. multiflora being generally wider in the segments than the others, and of a better figure, shorter and more ringent. The germen does not seem to contain any ovules, and the anthers are without pollen. Leaves varying in width from 1 to 4 inches, but always glaucous.
I could never keep the seedlings alive which I raised from Josephinae, by Belladonna, and the one is produced very sparingly. In 1847 I saw a pot containing about 300 seeds of B. multiflora, by Belladonna, but not more than 20 of them germinated, the germen being in the others entirely deficient; the after history of these is lost to me, but I believe that the bulbs are still living.
I also raised (as I thought) in 1841, some seedlings from Belladonna, by Haemanthus coccineus, and at the present moment I have one anomalous looking plant, expected to flower this season, which may be one of these. I believe that crosses may be easily obtained, in the proper climates, between any of the plants of the genus Amaryllis, and the false (as I consider them), genera Brunsvigia, Buphane, and Ammocharis. I believe that I have raised crosses on Belladonna by all of them. I am more doubtful about Nerine, although I do not see any positive characters distinguishing it from Brunsvigia. What has most surprised me in trying to cross these plants, is that I could never get a cross between Lycoris and Nerine, although they are so very much alike in almost everything except the stigmas. J.C.B., New South Wales.
Vitality of Pollen.—I think Mr. Beaton is rather too sanguine about the possibility of preserving the pollen for any great length of time. I have tried great numbers of experiments on the subject, and the result I have obtained is that hardly any pollen of Exogens retains its vitality after having become thoroughly dry. The pollen of Endogens appears to retain its powers of fertilisation for a considerable time, yet I have never succeeded in preserving the pollen of Amaryllis or Crinum from one season to another, even when kept as perfectly dry as not to have been in the least mouldy; I have found these two genera to retain their vitality for more than three months.
I have never found dry pollen of Iridaceae efficacious, with the single exception of Gladiolus roseus, by pollen of which, two months old, I have procured one on G. blandus. The pollen of Lilies cannot be kept at all, it will mould. It would take up too much of your space to name all the genera of Exogens on which I have experimented, but the only case in which I met with doubtful success (the plant died) was in the genus Melianthus.
I never had the opportunity of trying any experiments with Rhododendron, and it is very possible that the peculiar condition of its pollen may render it an exception to the general rule. The best method I have found of preserving pollen is to place the anthers in paper, and the papers in a little tin box, with a closely fitting lid, along with a piece of flannel which should be thoroughly dried before the fire every time the box is opened. J.C.B.