The Gardeners’ Chronicle 45: 92 (Feb 6, 1909)

THE KEW BELLADONNA

The hybrid figured and described in the Gardeners' Chronicle, January 23, is interesting, as it is another proof that Brunsvigia and Amaryllis readily hybridise. A comparison between the figure of Mr. Van Tubergen's plant and the Kew Belladonna, as represented by the figure published in Gardeners' Chronicle on October 29, 1898, p. 315, leads to the conclusion that both plants are very closely related. Bulbs of the Kew Belladonna have been distributed, during the last ten years or so, among a few people who are specially interested in bulbous plants. I have not yet seen either the plant or flowers of Mr. Van Tubergen’s hybrid, but I believe he has the Kew Belladonna, and is, therefore, in a position to compare the two. With regard to the origin of this plant, which I still think is the loveliest of all bulbous plants capable of cultivation in the open air in this country, it was presented to Kew in 1889, by Mrs. Arbuckle, of Stawell House, Richmond. She had obtained it from Sir Henry Parker, who formerly resided at Stawell House, and whose gardener, Mr. W. Boivell, showed a plant of it in flower at a meeting of the R.H.S. in August, 1875. A note in the Chronicle of that year, p. 302, states that this plant was "a seedling raised by Lady Parker in Australia from a cross between Amaryllis Belladonna and Brunsvigia Josephinae. This cross was first effected by the late Mr. Bidwill, and has since been several times repeated by Lady Parker." The Kew plants did not flower until we had had them seven years. Mr. Baker then examined them, and could find no trace of the character of the Brunsvigia in the flowers. To settle the question, we crossed Brunsvigia ♀ and the Belladonna at Kew, and we have now bulbs from this cross, none of which, however, has yet flowered. I see no reason now to doubt that the Kew Belladonna was obtained as stated, and I think it would be only right that this plant should be known botanically as Amaryllis Parkeri. Mr. J. C. Bidwill was superintendent of the Botanical Garden, Sydney, New South Wales, when he died in 1853. In Gardeners' Chronicle for July 27, 1850, p. 470, there is an interesting note by him on the crossing of Amaryllids, from which I quote the following: ''In Herbert's Amaryllidaceae, p. 278, mention is made of some seedlings raised from Amaryllis blanda and A. Josephinae (Brunsvigia ). 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 gooses egg. It would not, in all probability, have flowered in England in 20 years more in a inure 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 possess only two seedling bulbs, given to me by Mr. Herbert, which are expected to flower this season.. If it should flower I will repeat Mr. Herbert's experiment ... I raised, in February, 1841, a vast number of seedlings from Belladonna by Josephinae… These seedlings flowered for the first time in 1847, and are extremely beautiful. The colour of the flowers is generally like that of Passiflora Kermesina, but varies in different specimens, and many are blotched with white: there are from 20 to 30 flowers on a scape. I could never keep the seedlings alive which I raised from Josephinae crossed with Belladonna. This goes to support the suggestion that Amaryllis blanda was fertilised from the Brunsvigia to produce the Kew Belladonna, and as Mr. Van Tubergen's cross was the reverse way, that would account for the difference in habit he describes. It is quite possible that the plants brought by Sir Henry Parker from Australia were some of those raised in the Sydney Botanical Garden by Mr. Bidwill, Sir Henry having been Governor of New South Wales. I have seen 26 perfect flowers of the Kew Belladonna all open together on a single scape, which was about 3 feet high.—W. W.

——Having seen the above note from W. W., I should like to add a few words. First, as to the difference between Amaryllis blanda, Gawl. (Botanical Magazine, t. 1450), and A. Belladonna, L.; Herbert, who knew both these plants well and whose botanical and cultural knowledge of the Amaryllrds were probably greater than that of any living man, stated, on ages 277 and 278 of his Amaryllidaceae, that he considered the former a distinct species from Belladonna, and that Brunsvigia Josephinae, Redouté, was so nearly allied to it that he included it in the genius Amaryllis. He said that A. blanda has a strong midrib to the leaves which sheath above the ground. Now this sheath, which is strongly marked in my plants of A. blanda, which I procured many years ago from Van Houttes' nursery, is also a pronounced feature of the Kew hybrid, for which I accept Mr. Watson's name of A. Parkeri. The sheath, however, is absent from all the other forms of Belladonna known to me, including the pale form sometimes sold as A. blanda, which was confounded with the latter in Herbert's time. Baker, however, in his handbook of Amaryllidaceae (p. 96), treats blanda as a variety of A. Belladonna, and maintains Brunsvigia as a separate genus. In 1901, desiring to verify the alleged parentage of Parkeri, I raised a hybrid between Amaryllis blanda ♀ and Brunsvigia Josephinae ♂, and these seedlings show the sheath more or less distinctly, whereas the plant raised by Mr. Hoog, and figured in your last number, has the leaves like those of Brunsvigia Josephinae. It seems probable, therefore, that the influence of the female parent on the hybrids is much more marked than that of the male, and the sheath, which is so conspicuous a feature in Amaryllis Parkeri, proves, to my mind, that one of its parents was blanda and not A. Belladonna. Herbert states, what I find to be correct, that both A. blanda and Josephinae are more tender than A. Belladonna, and that their leaves, when cut by frost or drought at the points, will not continue to grow like those of A. Belladonna. He says that whatever may he the growth of the leaves of A. blanda, it will not flower if it is left in a cold situation whilst dry, and that he lost both of his bulbs, which were of the original importation, by planting them in front of the stove. A. Parkeri, however, seems to thrive well in front of the stove at Kew, though in my colder soil and climate I have to treat it as a greenhouse plant exactly as I do Brunsvigia.—H. J. Elwes, Colesborne.

Gardeners' Chronicle (Jan 23, 1909)
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