Jour Roy Hort Soc 333-336 (1900)
GLOXINIAS AND THEIR ARTIFICIAL FERTILISATION
By Monsieur Duval

GLOXINIAS are certainly very easy to fertilise, and a horticulturist unaccustomed to stove plants will not fail to perceive that they have very simple reproductive organs which offer themselves readily to fertilisation.

Does it then follow that it is easy to obtain all the varieties one would like? or that one can successfully fertilise and cross with each other the different varieties (the word species appearing rather strong) which are now in cultivation?

That is another matter; and I think it advisable to deal with this subject here, so as to fix certain points which may require to be elucidated, or which have been badly understood and consequently misinterpreted.

About the year 1860, when the first Gloxinias (Ligeria) with erect flowers made their appearance, there were few varieties. I only saw two varieties, or three at the most, in flower at the establishment of François Duval, my father—one pink variety, one pale blue, and one white with blue dots at the intersection of the segments. These Gloxinias were at that time rather poor in appearance, and their flowers were comparatively small. They were named 'Fiffiana,' derived from the name of Fiffe, I believe.

Where did they come from? Doubtless from England. By what channel? Through Thibaut and Keteleer or Rougier. It is, however, of little consequence. At all events, I saw them sown, thrive, and give in succession large flowers with more and more defined colours, and at the same time holding themselves up better. In spite of the appearance of the Gloxinias of Fiffe, Gloxinias with drooping flowers were still grown. Van Houtte obtained some very fine plants, but with drooping flowers. He sent out a variety, which he dedicated to Madame Van Houtte, under the name of Gloxinia Mina. At that period—that is to say, about 1866—we possessed both drooping and erect flowered varieties, but nearly all of one colour and without any brilliancy.

The appearance of the Gloxinia Mina, the colour of which was very brilliant carmine-red edged with white, caused me some surprise, and gave me the idea that by means of this rich-coloured plant superior varieties might be obtained. Indeed, by fertilising the varieties I possessed, and which were erect-flowered, with the drooping-flowered variety Mina, I obtained plants with erect flowers of a brilliant red colour edged with white. The flowers of a hitherto drooping type were therefore made erect as the result of the first attempt.

*Possibly a hybrid with Sinningia guttata.
**
Erect types not derived from Fyfiana.

This was the commencement of a new race, and to obtain several colours was the object in view and which I endeavoured to accomplish. By fertilising the progeny of Gloxinia Mina with other varieties, I had the pleasure of seeing a whole series of plants blossom of various colours—dark and light blue, pink, red, &c.—and all with erect flowers. But meanwhile my colleague J. Vallerand, sen., had crossed the Sinningia-Gloxinia, of a lilac-white colour*, dotted all over with dark violet, with Gloxinia erecta.** As the result of this hybridisation, he obtained some very curious and new things: plants with very finely spotted and marked flowers. It was a veritable revolution! During this time I acquired from M. Eugène Vallerand a series of Gloxinias (Ligeria), in connection with which it will be necessary to say something. These Gloxinias were of a very special type, and I believe were obtained from an able cultivator named Rossiaud. Very distinct in habit, these plants had rounded thick leaves, which, as well as the stems, were of a velvety nature; the buds were plump, short, and strongly petiolate; the flowers were large, of fine substance and very wide open; but they had a very narrow tube, and the colours, which were not very diverse, ranged from dark blue to cherry red, passing through bright rose or a white ground marked with blue dots.

They were, in short, very distinct Gloxinias, having nothing in common with those we possessed before; nor with those of the elder Vallerand which had been crossed with Sinningia. They were afterwards given the name of 'Crassifolia.' Where did these types come from, and what was their origin? For they bear so little resemblance to the male parent from Brazil, that it was easy to discriminate them at first sight. To fix this type, improve it, give it the colours wanting, and above all render it floriferous and less stiff—that was my task. I devoted ten years to it, from 1869 to 1879/1880, and during that period I have been enabled to obtain not only a great diversity in colour, but also pure whites, and moreover exceedingly floriferous plants. Under the influence of cultivation and continual selection I saw the type transformed, produce numerous buds, compact and abundant flowers, and assume a totally different aspect.

The origin of these Gloxinia crassifolia is indeed a mystery. Is it a type come spontaneously, and which has thus produced itself alone? I do not think so, for the first Gloxinia (Ligeria) crassifolia had drooping flowers, and their general appearance resembled that of the Gloxinia pyramidalis. Did the intervention of the latter take place at the opportune moment, and with what variety? Or was it Rossiaud who, wishing to fertilise the Gloxinia pyramidalis, did so with the Gloxinia (Ligeria) obtained direct from Brazil or already improved on by him? At any rate, one thing is certain, and that is that the Gloxinia crassifolia, although improved, have never allowed themselves to be fertilised by the Sinningias or their descendants. I have tried this operation several hundreds of times, but without success, and I leave it to others to tell us when they have proved successful.

The type crassifolia has at no time had dotted flowers; it is fixed and unchangeable; the colours have been improved, and, as I have already remarked, I have been able by dint of patience and time to transform it in such a manner that it is now quite as free-flowering and as rich in colours as the type called 'Vallerand's Type.' How has this transformation been effected? It is the result of repeated fertilisations, it is true; but one must also take into account the improvements which were produced as I proceeded with the fertilisations.

Thus, in connection with the colour, I have said that the Gloxinia crassifolia had only three very inferior colours at the commencement, viz. dark vinous red, dark blue slightly silvered on the edges, very pale violet and rose. It was necessary to select from these colours the best, and it was by continual sowings that one day I obtained much purer colours, viz. pure carmine, pure violet with a slight white border. Then, on experimenting again, I obtained the whole series of selfs edged with white, which were destined to become such favourites under the names of 'Le Progrès,' carmine-red edged with white; and 'Patrie,' dark blue edged with white. I obtained at the same time a plant of a magenta-lake colour, which, fertilised by a red variety, produced an amaranth-coloured flower, which also had a white margin. I at last obtained the pure white Gloxinia crassifolia, together with the whole series of ground colours; so that in a few years I created from a stiff, rigid plant, impossible to pack, with very inferior flowers, a type having an abundance of rich-coloured flowers, and perfect both as regards habit and inflorescence. In such a matter the greatest attention must be paid to the choice of the seedbearing plants.

With regard to the colours, it is very important to observe that the hybridiser must proceed exactly as the water-colour painter does; for instance, if he is desirous of obtaining fine distinct colours, he must only use, for the male parent, plants having pure, well-defined colours. Consequently, a carmine-red plant should be considered as a cake of paint of that colour; and if a dark blue variety is fertilised with that plant, four-fifths of the plants will be of a fine purplish-violet colour. If one takes a rose variety for the female and a dark carmine for the male, an intermediate colour of a bright pink will be the result. If, on the contrary, a plant of a mauve or magenta colour is fertilised with a bright carmine, one will obtain the amaranth colour known under the name of "magenta."

The mingling of colours, or their intensifying or lessening, is thus a matter of absolute certainty. It is like a palette at the disposal of a painter. It is, however, necessary to be well acquainted with the genealogy of the plants, to have studied them for a long time, for without, one will only get unexpected and curious reversions.

A red plant may have been fixed as the result of selection, but if it have blue or magenta in its blood (horticulturally speaking) it would not be surprising if, having this origin, its progeny should come out half red, half magenta—or worse.

Some types have been fixed in such a way that it becomes practically impossible to alter them. I have obtained a Gloxinia named 'Boule de Feu,' the very brilliant carmine-red of which has defied the intermixture of every other colour.

This plant, which had for its great-grandfather the Gloxinia 'Mina' of Van Houtte, has served us as a mine of colours for some years, the richness of its tints being inexhaustible. Everything I fertilised with this plant assumed superb colours, blues, pinks, magenta, violets; all these plants, impregnated by the Gloxinia 'Boule de Feu,' produced remarkable colours and of incomparable brilliancy.

But when I desired to fertilise my 'Boule de Feu' by other coloured varieties, two-thirds of the produce were 'Boule de Feu,' and the remainder of very little value.

I have come to feel such a certainty in my hybridisations that I can work like a painter in water-colours, by placing one colour over another, and not by mixing the tints; that is to say, to take a Gloxinia with deep violet-blue flowers, perfectly fixed as regards colour, and fertilise it by an equally well-fixed red one, and then not have any mixture of colours at all, but a superposition, a glazing of red over violet of very fine effect. In order to operate in this manner, one must be very sure about his plants.

I think the preceding notes will suffice to thoroughly show the advantage to be gained by acting in fertilisation with plants of which the origin has been properly studied and the sources of parentage have been carefully preserved.

Buch methods are absolutely indispensable to all who are desirous of making fertilisations, and secure results which are not entirely due to chance.

My friends, MM. Vallerand, have been able to carry to the utmost perfection the race of dotted and marked Gloxinias and the sub-varieties; I have brought, by dint of work and attention, the race of Crassifolia to a perfection which, I am entitled to think, has not been excelled.

What I have written may still help those who wish to attempt to improve it further!


Gloxinera x Brilliant (Gesnera pyramidalis x Gloxinia, Radiance)