Alocasia Amazonica is not a species and isn't from the Amazon.

Discussion in 'Araceae' started by photopro, Nov 12, 2009.

  1. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    I have found a few posts on UBC regarding Alocasia Amazonica and due to the email questions I personally receive feel the facts about this plant should be posted. Added November 16, 2009: The truth about this plant is now even better known but you will need to read to the end of this thread to learn all the details. Things change as the thread moves along so follow it to the final post.

    Although at least one plant seller on the internet advertises "Straight from the Rainforest to Your Home" while offering Alocasia Amazonica (correctly pronounced alo-CAY-see-a for sale this plant has never existed naturally in any rain forests of the world. If you do an internet search you will find quite a few "official" sources including some university websites indicating Alocasia Amazonica was described to science by botanist André Michaux (1746–1802). Since the plant didn't come into existence until the 1930's that would be impossible. It is regretable that even some university researchers do not do their homework before posting dubious information. (some info in the paragraph is incorrect but is orrected later).
    Commonly sold, Alocasia Amazonica is likely a hybrid of Alocasia watsoniana x Alocasia sanderiana but other crosses including Alocasia watsoniana x Alocasia nobilis have produced similar results. The plant is sometimes confused with Alocasia micholitziana Sander which is a true species and is sometimes known by the common names African Mask, Green Velvet, Jewel Alocasia, Alocasia Polly, or Alocasia Alligator. Commercially it has been sold as Alocasia Frydek and as Alocasia Maxkowskii.

    Very likely the ""title holder" to one of the biggest horticultural myths in the world of aroids, Alocasia Amazonica is not a species, has never been described to science, does not grow naturally in any native rain forest,is not from the Amazon and the name should never be used in either the italicized form or with single quotations since it is neither a published species nor a registered cultivar.

    The official registrar for aroid cultivars is the International Aroid Society and none of the commonly used names for this plant have ever been registered. http://www.aroid.org/cultivars/

    Many people have tried to argue the fact Alocasia Amazonica is a species but there has never been a species published to science named Alocasia Amazonica. The name is simply made-up and is now used as a common name for a hybridized plant created in the 1930's (correctly the 1950's).
    Aroid author and expert Julius Boos in West Palm Beach, FL was able to trace the hybrid to a nursery owner who during the 1950's owned a now defunct nursery in the Miami. The nursery was known as the "Amazon Nursery" and the grower named Alocasia Amazonica after his own business. The name has since been applied for over 70 years to this popular hybrid bred from Asian parents.

    There are over 100 species of Alocasia known to science and all are naturally found in the geographical region composed of Southeast Asia and neighboring island nations of the Pacific Ocean. No Alocasia species has ever been found naturally in Central or South America including the Amazon basin although species have been imported as well as set free and now thrive in the area.

    Hybrid plants are commonly variable and simply because the leaves are longer, shorter or wider does not mean you are growing a "different" plant. Both blades shown below were photographed on the same plant so a difference in the blade shape has to nothing to do with the name used to sell it. Aroids are naturally variable and finding leaves of different shapes, lengths, color and sizes on a single plant is very common. Aroids including pure species are variable.

    If you have the opinion that any plant that doesn't look exactly alike all the time or if the colorations must be the same or it indicates a new "species" you may want to consider reading this: http://www.exoticrainforest.com/Natural variation within aroid and plant species.html

    The underside of the hybrid is commonly burgundy but even that coloration may change as a result of the process of tissue culture. Most specimens are sterile so the plant is commonly reproduced by tissue culture in a laboratory in a test tube. The chemical process is completed when the plants are grown out in a sugar solution known as agar. Although an adult specimen may produce offsets virtually all specimens available for sale are grown from tissue cultured material.

    Since the hybrid was never registered the field is wide open to anyone wishing to give the plant a "new" name in an attempt to convince growers they should buy another specimen. As a result you'll find many discussions on plant forums where people wrangle over which "species" any particular specimen shape might have actually been. Despite all the wrangling they are all likely hybrids from the same parentage.

    Commercial growers anxious to sell even more plants often contrive "new names" including "Alocasia Alligator" and often advertise the plant as a "new species" which is simply incorrect. Regardless of any of the "new" names the plant is not a "new" species but only a hybrid.

    Here are three scientific data bases and you will not find Alocasia Amazonica on any. The Royal Botanic Garden Kew, London: http://www.ipni.org/index.html The Missouri Botanical Garden: http://www.tropicos.org/ World Checklist of Selected Plant Families: http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/qsearch.do

    Alocasia Amazonica commonly goes dormant in the winter but just because it vanishes beneath the soil does not mean it is dead. The hybrid grows best if kept in fairly bright light and does not survive long term in a dimly lit corner of a room. A specimen needs to be planted in very fast draining soil and watered regularly. Off the self potting soil can mean the "kiss of death" to a specimen since the soil needs to remain damp at all times. You'll do much better if the plant is grown in a soil that has been amended with orchid potting bard, orchid charcoal, Perlite, finely cut sphagnum moss, peat moss and compost.

    If you'd like to learn the scientific facts regarding Alocasia species please read A review of Alocasia (Araceae: Colocasieae) for Thailand including a novel species and new species records from South-West Thailand by aroid botanist Peter C. Boyce.

    http://www.aroid.org/genera/alocasia/alocthailand.pdf

    Again, even though the leaves below look different they were photographed on the exact same plant. The difference is known to a scientist as natural variation.
     

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    Last edited: Nov 19, 2009
  2. trikus

    trikus Active Member

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    Neighbours nice clump of this hybrid growing well under the canopy of large trees .
    It is mainly growing in a thick layer of leaf mould . It is easily propagated by the many root tubers it produces . And can form massive clumps in perfect conditions [ like mine ]


    With bright light this can sometimes get an extra silver flush over the leaf .
    There is a form of longiloba that has this same silver flush it was called watsoniana , what most know as watsoniana is act. the caurelea form . Here they are ...
     

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  3. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    Beautiful Mic!

    Now, I've got a "mystery" for you about this plant.

    I'm finding references on the National Botanic Garden of Belgium, the USDA and the University of Connecticut websites for something they call Alocasia x Amazonica André.

    This is how they have it listed on the garden in Belgium:

    Alocasia x amazonica André
    Family : Araceae
    Accession N° : 19510109

    * Conservation value : Cultivated material
    * Determination : Identified (Billiet F., 12may1999)
    * Source : Belgium, Gent, Van Houtte (N)
    * Location(s) :

    Sector(s) : 600J,6011

    Since Alocasia Amazonica is not a species and at least the plant we know by the name Alocasia Amazonica in the United States wasn't suppoesedly hybridized until the 1930's are they talking about the same plant? If botanist André Michaux wrote about it before his death in 1802 is it possible they are talking about something completely different or did someone just incorrectly associate his name with the plant? All the species thought to be parents of this hybrid were not identified to science until almost 100 years or more after André Michaux' death!

    I've asked Julius and several other aroid experts here and no one can figure this one out. I've also sent notes to Josef Bogner and Pete Boyce but so far no answers.

    If you can help with any answers I would much appreciate the help.
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2009
  4. trikus

    trikus Active Member

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    It has no records but was most likely bred in Belgium, France or even England many years ago , it is mentioned in Burnetts 'Cultivated Alocasia' . along with a few cultivars 'Bowes' and 'Magnifica' this is the silver flushed one I showed a picture of . As well as 'Randall a larger growing form of the hybrid or a supposed cross with korthalsii .

    I very much doubt it was bred in USA .
     
  5. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    Interesting observation. My information came through Julius and he got it from John Banta. Still, even if it originated in Belgium, France or England how did André get involved since he died more than 200 years ago?
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2009
  6. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor

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    Steve, it's a-low-KAY-see-a not a-low-KAY-see-ee
     
  7. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    I have have the sources you refer to!

    Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2009
  8. trikus

    trikus Active Member

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    Maybe that is when this plant was bred . They have been around a long time .
     
  9. bjo

    bjo Active Member 10 Years

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    Hi,

    I do not think that the "André" refers to André Michaux. The correct abbrevation for that botanist is "Michx."

    There were two French botanists called (surname) André, a father and son.
    Edouard F André (1840-1911) and his son René Edouard André 1867 - 1942....so perhaps René is the author of the name?

    Brian
     
  10. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    Thanks very much! I have a list of botanists and when I typed in the abbreviation that was the name that came up.

    Still, I'm not certain that solves the mystery. I have a file coming from Miami (hopefully today) that has all the original information on the Miami postman that owned the Amazon Nursery and supposedly it details all the facts on the original hybridization of the plant. I've also sent notes to every aroid botanist I know in Europe, France, England and Germany asking if they can help dig out the facts on why the plant is credited to André in Belgium when no other botanical data base does so. Maybe we'll eventually figure this one out.
     
  11. bjo

    bjo Active Member 10 Years

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    Hi Steve,

    next thought for you...there is an article by Billiet (who confirmed the name of the plant in the botanic gardens in Belgium) in Aroideana volume 28 (2005) on the aroids in their collection. I imagine you have access to this ...perhaps it will give a bit more information?

    Boa Sorte
    Brian
     
  12. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    I have the entire set of Aroideana and can't find a mention of Alocasia x Amazonica in that article. Do you have a specific page? The article begins on page 113. I also checked the IAS electronic database of all issues and found no mention in the PDF search files.
     
  13. bjo

    bjo Active Member 10 Years

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    Sorry Steve,

    I just saw the title of the article on the web and thought it might be relevant/useful. Another clue to the plant in Belgium is the source which is listed - it almost certainly relates to the nursery of Louis van Houtte in Gent (=Ghent). He died late 19th century, but his son took over the business. I do not know when it closed or changed name.

    Brian
     
  14. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the info! Hopefully one of the European botanists will know the answers to all this! My post appeared today on Aroid l so we shall see!
     
  15. hydrophyte

    hydrophyte Active Member

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    I have a few plants of what I think is 'Polly' and it is a great riparium plant. I was suprised at how well it grows in the water.
     

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  16. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    Below are the facts about the origination of Alocasia Amazonica as related by long time International Aroid Society member John Banta. For those that are not unacquainted with the names in John's information these are some of the original founders of the IAS. John is considered somewhat "legendary" as a grower and has often been loving known as "The Banta". In addition, although not mentioned in John's piece, both John and I want to credit Julius Boos for his input. Julius has tried for years to correct the misconceptions about this plant. If there is a living legendary figure in the IAS other than John it would be Julius!

    I now realize as a result of the help of many of you what we know as Alocasia Amazonica is likely a variety of hybrid plants, not necessarily the original as John describes. Some have a velvet appearance while others do not so different parents must be involved.

    Still, I can't figure out why the plant is credited to Edouard F André on the National Botanic Garden of Belgium website. Someone in Europe that can has access to their records is going to have to explain that part.




    The Myth and the Truth About Alocasia Amazonica
    By John Banta


    I guess that it is just another burden that old men must endure. We see facts known to us as true replaced by logical myths.

    Unfortunately, Monroe Birdsey, Bob See and Ralph Davis whom all knew Salvadore Mauro, a great plantsman are all dead. I was fortunate enough to have visited Sam’s nursery with Monroe. The visit was a result of my questioning Monroe why in the world an Asiatic genus, Alocasia, was given the name, ‘Amazonica’? Monroe’s skill in teaching is illustrated by his response. He made a phone call and then insisted that I accompany him to a friend’s nursery. We drove out to near the Miami airport. Sam lived on about a quarter acre lot just off 36th Street. Behind his small house was a large (about 20X30 foot cement block enclosure roofed over with snow fencing. ( for those of you who have never lived in snow country; snow fencing is about 4 feet tall and composed of 1 inch wide wooden slats woven together with 14 gauge galvanized wire leaving about a 1 inch gap between the slats.) His growing area was magical, the cement blocks were covered with algae, moss and ferns and the benches crowded with beautifully grown foliage plants such as Homalomena wallisi ‘ Mauro’ that he introduced in the 1950's. Sam was killed in an automobile accident while at work as a postman on one of the three wheeled motor bikes used back in those days. Well, back to our story. As we approached a bench of Alocasias I asked Sam how Alocasia amazonica got it’s name. He answered ,” I guess it could have been named for a nursery!”

    I asked who made the hybrid? Sam and Monroe had a good laugh at my expense. I had not noticed the small sign as we entered; ‘Amazon Nursery’ I asked what the parents were. Sam’s smile quickly darkened. He was upset that it was erroneously reported to be A. sanderiana X a. lowii whereas it was in reality A. sanderiana X watsoniana. Years later I remade the hybrid as Sam suggested I should to verify the parents. All of the seedlings came up as easily identified as A. “Amazonica”. I believe without a doubt that the true origin of Alocasia Amazonica was in Sam’s nursery in the 1950's.

    I only wish that some of our departed plantsmen were still around for more reasons than to vouch for Sam’s accomplishments.


    I have attempted to explain all of this here: http://www.exoticrainforest.com/Alocasia micholitziana pc.html
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2009
  17. bjo

    bjo Active Member 10 Years

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    Thanks Steve!

    Please keep us updated with any further developments on "the Belgian mystery"

    Ciao
    Brian
     
  18. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    It is only getting worse! According to IPNI both the parent names John gave are horticultural names (Hort.). If you look them up you'll find both "appear" to be the same plant! In fact, one is listed as hving originated from Alocasia Amazonica! TROPICOS lists both as legitmate names.

    I'm digging and have sent notes to the Kew but this is stranger than strange! I am just about to send notes to France to see what I can learn there.
     
  19. trikus

    trikus Active Member

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    Seriously folks , what a load of carp .. maybe Mr Mauro decided to remake this ancient hybrid , or decided to have some fun with a few gullible experts . I just cannot believe any of this .
     
  20. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    This just came from John Banta. I have notes to the garden in Belgium out as well.

    Sloppy taxonomony accounts for many mysteries! Andre did in fact mention in 1891 in Review Hortic an Alocasia hybrid between A, sanderiana and A. Lowii those parents were later ascribed to A. Amazonica in error. The Alocasia described by Andre is correctly named mortefontanensis.
    In as much as Sam made A. Amazonica using A, sanderiana X A. Watsoniana. It is NOT the plant mentioned by Andre. If anyone wants to argue the point further let them remake A. Amazonica as I did. Both species are still available. Talk is cheap. Growers should resolve these problems on the basis of true observations. Get off the computers and do some real botany!
     
  21. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    This came from a grower in Belgium. We already know that similar plants from different parentage have been grown and called Alocasia Amazonica or Alocasia x amazonica. This would appear to reinforce the fact that there are now folks that would like to claim the title for one specific hybrid.

    My question then would be why would anyone in Europe pre-1900 or in the early 1900's wish to name a hybrid known to be of Asian parents "amazonica"? It at least makes more sense John Banta's account of how the plant got the name would be correct.

    It now looks to me like people would just like to claim the name for a beloved plant and as a result have credited it to the plant talked about by André. Since John has dupliated the exact parentage as described by Sam with the same results as the commonly sold plant here in the U.S. it would be helpful if someone did the same with the plants André described and see what "pops out".
    .

    I'm growing alocasia for 30 years or so now and alocasia x amazonica is the first plant i grow.this is an old hybrid,for sure before 1950!! many of the hybrids of that period were bred here in belgium in nursery in the begining of last century,like 'veich laboratory ' and others.Alocasia sanderana is NOT an horticultural name.It is a species from Philippines.Nobilis and sanderana are the same species,nobilus with more sinuous leaves.a Watsoniana was a species until some years agoo when A hay put it as a synonim of alocasia longiloba.Growing many alocasia from longiloba complex like lowii,longiloba,korthalsii,denudata and many others,i sincerly don't undestand why alocasia watsoniana was incuding in that 'species complex'.The plant have virtualy no variability(unless maybe in the color of the limb),and have only in commun with that complex the white caracteristic midrib of that complex.the corms are different,the leaves are differents,and larger of any in this complex.One of the most beautiful species of the genus!x amazonica have part of the 2 species...

    best regards

    Danny
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2009
  22. bjo

    bjo Active Member 10 Years

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    Steve,

    your persistence and network of contacts pays off...and now as you say it would be interesting if some crosses of well defined and well-named plants were made to see what arises.

    Thanks for the research and update.
    Brian
     
  23. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    I'm not not yet Brian. Julius thinks he may have more answers later today. We've got notes to people all over Europe and Asia on this.

    André appears to have written in 1891 in Review Hortic about an Alocasia hybrid between Alocasia sanderiana and Alocasia lowii. Alocasia lowii is now correctly Alocasia longiloba. Those parents were later ascribed to Alocasia Amazonica in error since the parents of that plant are Alocasia sanderiana x Alocasia watsoniana according to John Banta and he appears to have proven that himself. As far as I can tell André referred to the plant as "mortefontanensis".

    It is beginning to look like André's mortefontanensis had the same parents as the hybrid plant sold as Alocasia Poly. If that is true then André's plant is not the same hybrid as Salvadore Mauro's plant bred at his Amazon Nursery in Miami. That would lead me to believe that Alocasia Poly and Alocasia Amazonica should not be confused as the same plant. By the way, Salvadore as known to his friends as "Sam".

    It also appears some researcher elected to call André's mortefontanensis Alocasia x amazonica due to the popularity of the hybrid plant with growers when in fact it should still be called Alocasia x mortefontanensis or something on that order.

    It makes no sense for a well known European hybrid which I have now been told has been grown since the early 1900's to be called Alocasia x amazonica when the reason for the use of the name "Amazonica" is obvious due to the name of Salvadore Mauro's nursery.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2009
  24. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    Some information in this post is not entirely correct but will be clarified later in this thread.

    Below is an informative note I received today from Australian botanist Alistair Hay. Alistair is one of the most knowledgeable Alocasia experts in the world of botany. Beneath that is my response which includes another note from Belgium which backs up what John Banta wrote.

    I'm satisfied a clear distinction should be made as to the origination of the plant we know as Alocasia Amazonica and the one described by André. I doubt I'll be changing a lot of minds in the world of horticulture even though Alistair is one of the very best minds in the field of Alocasia species in the world.

    It is just my opinion but I know others within the aroid community agree. André's mortefontanensis should be known as Alocasia x mortefontanensis with a clear distinction made between it and Salvadore Mauro's plant bred at his Amazon Nursery in Miami known as both Alocasia Amazonica and Alocasia x amazonica.

    By the way, the name Alocasia x mortefontanensis or Alocasia mortefontanensis can be found on many Japanese websites but I have no idea what the discussion is saying.

    The only way this is going to be solved is for one of our knowledgeable hybridizers to recreate both crosses and publish a paper. Since that will take several years I suppose the "discussion" will simply continue.


    Alistair Hay wrote:

    Hi Steve,

    I don't know much about "A. x amazonica" though it appears not to be a validly published botanical name. I am not aware of the name going back before the 1950's, though the hybrid plant might well go back to the 19th century (and been re-made later), as there were many hybrids made then. Plants have sometimes been given completely erroneous geographic epithets, like the Asian Lycoris africana, and the African Nerine sarniensis, to take two examples from Amaryllidaceae, but I think the origin being the name of the nursery may be correct in this case. IMO the IAS as ICRA for aroids should publish a determination that "Alocasia x amazonica" is the correctly cultivar Alocasia 'Amazonica'.

    By the way, the Alocasia nobilis your ?Belgian correspondent refers to is an illegitimate name because of the prior A. nobilis Hallier f. (an unrelated Sumatran species). 'Nobilis' cannot be used as a cultivar epithet in Alocasia (for a form of A. sanderiana) because of the existence of Alocasia nobilis Hallier f., if my interpretation of the ICNCP is correct.

    I remember agonizing over whether to include A. watsoniana in the A. longiloba complex. He hasn't grown enough of the variable plants in the complex, I suspect. What look like different species in cultivation become much more blurred if one looks (at more variability) in the wild. I suspect the cultivated big watsoniana should also be given the status of cultivar, Alocasia 'Watsoniana'. Many of these problems with and unending arguments/discussions about "horticultural-botanical" hybrids and species can be simply circumvented by making them cultivars.

    Alistair


    My response:

    Thanks Alistair! I received the note below from Belgium just an hour ago:

    Ok Steve.

    I have checked at my book and effectively,the plant described in 1891 by Ed Andre is Alocasia mortfontanensis, as john Banta write it in your reply. I have grown this plant years ago and it seem that there are no really apparent difference from the plant know as Alocasia x amazonica like we all know today,except that the leaves are typically more large in A x mortfontanensis. This plant was not from a Belgian grower as i mentioned before,but from a French grower (MM Chantrier) and is said to be from 1891. The parents were Alocasia lowii 'grandis' by Alocasia sanderiana. So John Banta is probably correct. The cross 'amazonica' is probably from America. For your information, the plant in the living collection in The Belgian Botanical Garden of Meise is 'only' a common Alocasia x 'amazonica'....I know it well as they got the plant from me years ago in an plant exchange exercise!

    Best regards
    Danny


    As a result I am recommending that horticulturist Derek Birch consider doing as you suggest and post the correct info on the IAS site since it strongly appears the Alocasia x mortfontanensis cross is the one noted on the Belgium garden site which is not the same cross as the one created by Salvador and should not be used as Alocasia x amazonica.

    Thanks again as always!

    Steve
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2009
  25. LariAnn

    LariAnn Active Member

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    I'll throw my $0.02US into the mix now. If the horticultural watsoniana is truly a variety of longiloba, along with lowii, then as an experienced hybridizer I would expect the progeny of both crosses to have significant similarities. What has me wondering is why no one seems to have gone to the F2 generation of these crosses to see what would come out of it. Perhaps hybridizers in the mid to late 19th century did indeed perform the F2 work with these crosses, but it would appear that the progeny, if any, have not survived as horticultural varieties to this day.

    IMHO, one other very important piece of work should be performed, and that is to self the watsoniana and see if a variety of genotypes arises in the progeny. If the progeny of such a selfing are uniformly like the parent watsoniana, that would argue (for me) strongly in favor of the plant being granted specific status.

    LariAnn
    Aroidia Researach
     

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