Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardener (April 29, 1862) pp. 79-80, 98-99

Donald Beaton

* In fact, the name was coined by Carl von Linné, the younger, who never published under the name, Linnaeus. I suspect that "equestris" was sly jab at Sir Joseph Banks, and a reminder to us that the elder von Linné was a knight (Nordstjärneordern), and that this was his Amaryllis.

WHEN Linnaeus named the original species equestre*—a bright orange flower with a green star at the bottom—he meant it to signify the Equestrian Star, or Knight's Star, a badge of an ancient order of knighthood, and Hippeaster means the same thing. Singularly enough, equestre, the species on which the genus was founded, was the first plant of the order of Amaryllids which the first collector of the reformed, and Royal, Horticultural Society had met with in Brazil last August; and no less singular, if we date back to the time of Linneaus, that equestre is now met with, in a wild state, within sight of a railway station.

He found it on the woody hills above Belem, forty miles from Rio (see our "Proceedings," 1862, page 52). He found more of them also there, but he missed some good ones up the gorges of Corcovado, and on the south side of the bay. The whole family are natives of Brazil, except vittatum, which is from the opposite side, in Peru, and regium, or reginae, a native of nobody knows where, but somewhere on the low coast of Mexico. A very fine variety of solandriflorum, with red stripes on the outside, was sent from Lima to the Glasgow Botanic Garden; but whether that was a garden plant or a native has not been stated. As there is now no difficulty in procuring all the best kinds for garden use from some one or other of the Brazilian ports, and as the Royal Horticultural Society have them in their schedules for prizes, and also because there are very few of them now in England, and still fewer who know much of the high estimation they acquired in the latter part of the last century, and the first quarter of this, I mean this contribution to be half historical and half biographical of what was known of them, and what they had been brought to by the skill and industry of a race of growers now nearly gone to their last account.

No plants in the world were in higher repute, in my younger days, than these very plants; no race of plants is more easily improved by cross-breeding, and crossing is yet very far from producing results such as were effected in this family forty years back. The nearest to it will be the crossing of the large-flowering Sikkim Rhododendron. Even then I do not see how you could excel some of the crosses I have seen from Hippeastrum solandriflorum, the flowers being full 10 inches long, and from 5 inches to 7 inches across. What you see of them now are merely the dregs of a former world, not worth talking about, and to make a fresh start with what you can muster, without freak importations, would be as wise as to graft at the wrong end of the stock as they do Manetti.

With the above limitation the genus is confined within the tropics in Brazil; but on account of the various elevations at which the different species are found, some of them are hardy greenhouse plants, some prefer an intermediate treatment between stove and greenhouse plants, some are hardy stove, and same very tender stove plants—meaning hardy and tender in respect to treatment, not as to the degrees of heat. One is an evergreen the year round, and one or more are inclined that way, if encouraged; the rest cast their leaves and remain dry during the winter, and a section of them, if well managed, will rest in winter and at midsummer, flowering both in the spring and in the autumn. There are only ten or a dozen wild species known to be good crossers; but some of these have several local wild varieties, and some of the wild varieties are better garden plants than the species; but let me take the species in alphabetical order, and tell the tale of each, and where a figure and full description of it may be found and verified.

1. HIPPEASTRUM AULICUM (Bot. Reg., vol. vi., 444), with two varieties—glaucophyllum (Bot. Mag., vol. lvii., 2983), and platypetalum (Bot. Reg., vol. xii., 1038). These have only two flowers on a scape, the flowers chiefly a crimson and a green throat. The glaucous-leaved sort is the best to cross, and the three are hardy stove plants.

2. H. BULBULOSUM, under which eleven varieties or kinds come in, because they produce blind offsets, and only vary in the shades of colour, or leaf, or stature. They have different degrees of orange and red to crocatum (Bot. Reg., vol. i., 38), which is coppery orange. They are all of easy growth. The following are the best breeders of them—ignescens, with a small fiery orange flower; rutilum (Bot. Reg., vol. i., 28), a brilliant scarlet; fulgidum (Bot. Reg., vol. iii., 226), pale orange scarlet; and pulverulentum (Bot. Mag., vol. xlix., 2273). All these kinds grow in the vicinity of, or not very far from Rio, and some of them may now be in Chiswick garden, from Mr. Weir, the Society's collector. They made an exquisite strain by crossing with solandriflorum, and quite another strain of high orange scarlet tinged with purple, and very tender, by crossing with fulgidum, and rutilum with reticulatum; but the two races have been extinct for the last thirty years.

3. H. CALYPTRATUM (Bot. Reg., vol. ii., 164).—A tender stove plant with two flowers on a scape; colour greenish, and the green netted over with red. With the least encouragement it is an evergreen, but crosses from it and by it are very beautiful and require rest in winter.

4. H. EQUESTRE (Bot. Mag., vol. ix., 305).—A hardy stove kind with bright orange flowers, with a green star at the bottom. This was the original kind, and was from Trinidad, Surinam, and West India islands. It is not so good as stylosum, with the same colour, to breed from; but stylosum is difficult to get.

5. H. PSITTACINUM (Bot. Reg., vol. iii., 199).—A hardy greenhouse plant. A most valuable breeder with two flowers only on a scape. The colour a dark green richly netted and margined with bright red.

6. H. REGIUM (Bot. Mag., vol. xiii., 453).—Bright scarlet flowers with a green star. A much better plant than equestre for crossing, the flower is of better substance and colour, and of much better form, while the bulb is equally hardy in the stove. Named Reginae from having first flowered in England on the Queen's birthday, in 1728. Said to be a native of the shores of the Mexican Gulf.

7. H. RETICULATUM (Bot. Mag., vol. xviii., 657).—A delicate, tender stove plant of exquisite brightness and beauty. Colour purplish-red, as in some of the new Nosegay Geraniums, and that regularly netted or reticulated with a darker colour, and a clean clear white star at the bottom. The locality of this splendid bulb has never been recorded, but as the collector of the Society found the only known variety of it, striatifolium, near Belem, we may presume the species is not far from Rio, and, perhaps, nearer the coast. Striatifolium with a white band down the middle of the leaf, has a larger and a paler flower than the green-leaved reticulatum, and it is now at Chiswick garden, from the collector.

8. H. SOLANDRIFLORUM (Bot. Mag., Iii., 273, and another variety of it, Bot. Reg., xi., 876).—Two forms of this magnificent plant with the flowers from 8 inches to 10 inches long, which are of the same form and nearly the same colour as those of Solandra grandiflora—that is to say, creamy white with a tinge of pale green in it, and faintly striped with red on the outside, and a deeper red at the end of the tube. This is a tender stove plant, but has been the parent of a hardier race of the most magnificent crosses ever raised, and with the pollen of vittatum and psittacinum, the seedlings require only the treatment of the greenhouse. The rutilum and fulgidum varieties of bulbulosum made another race with it, which were as hardy in the stove as those of aulicum.

9. H. STYLOSUM (Bot. Mag., xlix., 2278).—A tender stove plant from near Maranham, with a more coppery orange than equestre, and giving a deeper tinge of orange to the cross seedlings than that species.

10. H. VITTATUM (Bot. Mag., vol. iv., 129, and Bot. Reg., xii., 988).—Two varieties of the most valuable of all the Hippeasters, being the hardiest of the race. It lived out of doors at Mitcham, in Surrey, for many years, and even ripened its seeds in the open air, and had nothing but a coat of ashes over the border in winter. It is the male parent of Johnsoni, now the hardiest and the oldest cross we have of them, regium having been the mother. But a free florid race between it and psittacinum was still more hardy, yet they have all disappeared. Vittatum is soon weakened in stove heat. A strong bulb of it would have as many as nine flowers on a scape. It is a white flower with double stripes of red in it, and a green eye in one variety.

These were all the wild kinds that we have crossed, and there were only two more that I know of which were worth crossing, the longiflorum variety of ambiguum from Lima in the Glasgow Botanic Gardens, which was very like vittatum, with a larger and longer flower, and another red one found on the Organ Mountains, by Mr. Gardener, which is a hardier form of aulicum, with better-shaped flowers. This last I had through Mr. Wailes, of Newcastle, as soon as it came over, and I had a fine race of hardy, stout, well-formed flowers from it at Shrubland Park, but less brilliant than those from aulicum. Dr. Herbert also bred from it, but I never heard the result. It seemed as hardy as psittacinum, and it ought to be still at Woburn Abbey.


THE GENUS HIPPEASTRUM. (Continued from page 80.)

THERE is a secret in growing these Hippeasters that has never been published, and that is, to have abundance of water while the leaf is growing, but during the whole summer, after the leaf has reached its full length, no more water than will just keep the leaves from flagging; and if the pots are plunged, which is the best way, no gardener not in the secret could believe on how little water they would live. Too much water after the end of May has been their bane; they never ripen their leaves in the autumn under that, the ordinary system, and then they rot either in the heart or canker from the bottom while at rest. A late vinery where Grapes are kept till February is the best possible place to winter them in, and even the hardiest of them prefer a warmer place for resting than for growing in. Peat is next to poison to them all, and leaf mould, or rotten dung, is the next worse thing to give them. They require very strong loam with a little sand, and nothing else, but the best drainage, and small, deep, upright pots—that is, pots seemingly small for the size of the bulbs, and the more full the pot is with roots the better they do, and as long as the loam keeps from soddening, no matter how long they are kept in the same soil. While the leaf is growing they like as much liquid manure as a Pine-Apple, and quite as strong, and no more liquid manure after the leaf gets to its full size, or what might seem the contrary of good management, if we did not know by long experience that it is the best course to pursue with them. Highclere, Wentworth House, Spofforth, and Colvill's Nursery, in the King's Road, London, were the best places for them in 1831, when I travelled England, and Dropmore was the next place, where Mr. Bailey used to flower two hundred bulbs of vittatum alone in one season, a glorious sight, besides a large collection of crosses. The quickest way to flower the seedlings—say the third season, is to leave the seedlings in the seed-pots the first season, then to plant out the balls entire in strong loam over bottom heat, and to keep them well supplied with water, which will cause them to continue in growth through the winter—say quite as evergreens the first three years. I have seen the seedling bulbs flattened, and some Carrot-like, for want of room, which seemed to do all the better for them, and I have reared them by the thousand for some years, but Sweet's treatment of these seedlings, by putting each into small pots the first season, and turning the balls on dry shelves in winter to save pots, I never could succeed with; but then plant-houses were kept so much more dry in his day than since. They certainly require as much dryness and as much heat in winter, when at rest, as the Muscat of Alexandria Grapes. Even then the very tender kinds will rot, if the bulb is above ground. I always had them buried up to the neck, and in deep pots.

The subjoined list of the very best crosses that were raised when these plants were the fashion, will serve to show the best way to pursue now for a second start, seeing they are likely to become favourites. The list has been made more than thirty years, at least most of it, and all the names are in Sweet's "Hortus Britannicus," or most of them are, and this list will last, as a stud list, for the next twenty years certain, unless the second start be by steam, as these bulbs had once been grown. The father and the mother of each kind have been as truly registered in this, my stud list, as ever the parentage was for the Derby and Newmarket. The father in every instance is the first named, the mother next, and the cross the best out of ten or a dozen experiments at least, and your time and trouble to that amount will be saved by crossing on this model. After the middle of the list the names are not in strict priority, but the first part is thus—

1. Johnsoni, in 1810, from the pollen of regium on vittatum. A well-known sort at the present day.
2. Seymouri " aulicum and vittatum. Had many names, and is yet in some collection, after Dr. Herbert's gardener.
3. Allmani " calyptratum and vittatum. A good flower by Sweet, and named after a Professor of botany in Dublin.
4. Andersoni " bulbulosum and vittatum. A fine flower. and variable as the variety of bulbulosum used.
5. Hookeri " Goweni and vittatum. A very charming flower, named after Sir W. Hooker.
6. Grahami " Johnsoni and vittatum. Thus, two turns of vittatum give a larger and a more brilliant flower, together with a hardier plant than Johnsoni. After Professor Grahame, Edinburgh.
7. Digweedi " striatifolium and vittatum. The white stripe retained. After a foreman at Highclere.
8. Griffithi " psittacinum and Johnsoni. Very beautiful. The best cross raised by Mr. Griffith.
9. Sweetii " reticulatum and Johnsoni, including the crosses from the variety striatifolium, were called Sweets strain.
10. Brookesi " bulbulosum and Johnsoni, including three varieties of bulbulosum, such as crocatum, fulgidum, and rutilum. These were the strain of Mr. Brookes, a nurseryman.
11. Benthami " stylosum and Johnsoni. A good flower, but not a desirable mixture of colours.
12. Daubeni " Griffinii and Johnsoni. A very beautiful flower, and a hardy greenhouse plant.
13. Carnarvonii " solandriflorum and Johnsoni. A magnificent flower, named after the Earl of Carnarvon.
14. Altaclarae " psittacinum and Griffini. A very beautiful cross, named after Highclere.
15. Hayloki " solandriflorum and bulbulosum. The rutilum variety, an extraordinarily grand flower.
16. Herberti " solandriflorum and stylosum. The largest and most beautiful, yet stylosum is but a small flower.
17. Harrisoni " reticulatum and stylosum. The most lovely, and the nearest to a florists' flower ever raised.
18. Parkeri " bulbulosum and reticulatum. Perhaps the richest of all in colour. A tender plant.
19. Hoodii " equestre and regium. A fancy of Sweet's at Colvill's; good colour.
20. Henslowi " regium and bulbulosum. The fulgidum variety. A most brilliant flower.
21. Batemani " equestre and bulbulosum. Never saw it, or knew the variety of bulbulosum used.
22. Goweni " reticulatum and bulbulosum rutilum. A most lovely colour and good form.
23. Munroi " psittacinum and equestre. Never saw it. Should be both hardy and handsome.
24. Baconi " psittacinum and regium. Should be a better colour, and as hardy as the last.
25. Colvilli " reticulatum and regium. This was the finest Sweet ever raised. A rich colour.
26. Cartoni " aulicum and Sweetii. The best of all with the aulicum breed, and is yet in some collections.
27. Lindseyi " aulicum and reticulatum. Splendid colour, the shape a death blow to a florist.
28. Lamberti " Cartoni and Grahami. Here the wide staghorn shape of aulicum in Carton's is modified to the right pitch by the two turns of vittatum, which is in Grahami.
29. Donni " Hookeri and Hayloki. A noble flower, still retaining the white stripe from vittatum.
30. Spofforthiae " aulicum and Carnarvonii. A most magnificent flower, a splendid colour, and the best shape in the blood race from aulicum.
31. Lindley " Griffini and Carnarvonii. Another noble flower, the best ever called after Dr. Lindley.

Now, study that stud list and register, go to work on your friends in Brazil, get the wild kinds thence, if the Royal Horticultural Society should miss any, grow and cross them, and say nought about it till you beat the worst of these before you; and when you hear a fuss about seedling aulicums, with their six staghorn "points," or of equestres, with lop-ears like the Suffolk pigs, just tell the raisers of them to have them sent to India by the overland route, and if you could get the captain to drop them over in the Red Sea, it is the next best thing you could do for the family. For the only good Hippeasters that have been exhibited for the last fifteen years in London, were hardly worth growing, except some few by Mr. Parker and Mr. Williams.


Beaton Bibliography