By Kit Knotts
Click images to enlarge
Something amazing has happened in the Victoria world and it is even a little bizarre when you think about it. For the first time in more than 100 years we have viable seeds of V. cruziana collected in the wild available for introduction into cultivation.
Looking to the future, we have embarked on a program of line breeding the two Victoria species to insure genetic diversity in cultivated plants. What this means is that particular plants grown from seeds collected in the wild will be self-pollinated and the offspring grown year after year in a "straight line". From time to time, each straight line will be out crossed with another line, producing what we hope will be extremely vigorous amazonicas and cruzianas with which breeders will make the hybrids.
Establishing these lines of V. amazonica is a fairly easy task since there have been collections in the wild in the past several years. (In 2001 we grew four straight lines of amazonica and hope to add two more in 2002.) With cruziana it is another story! Over the last year we have tried to delve into the history of cruziana as grown in the United States over the past 100 years or so, hoping to learn the origin of what appear to be several lines, that grown by Longwood Garden and that perpetuated by William Tricker Inc.
In the winter of 1893-1894, William Tricker received seeds from a European house that were purportedto be the true V. regia (amazonica). Some of the resulting plants were distinctly different and were "distinguished provisionally as 'Tricker's variety'". (William Tricker, The Water Garden, 1897). Over time, this proved to be V. cruziana A.D. Orb., the name we know the species by today.
Though accession records are sketchy, it appears from old correspondence that Tricker shared seeds of these plants with George Pring at Missouri Botanical Garden who shared them with Pat Nutt at Longwood Garden and Arthur Proebstle in Texas among others. Walter Pagels provided us with a copy of a letter from Gilbert Lambacher, Manager of William Tricker Inc. in 1974, that indicates that he received his Victoria seedlings of that year from Proebstle. Those puppies made the rounds! Though it is not conclusive, it appears that all cruzianas grown in the US in the past hundred years originated with William Tricker!
If that is true, there has been no collection of cruziana seeds in the wild available for breeding in the US since the Tricker seeds were supplied to the European house, actual origin unknown. A collection made around the turn of the century has resulted in an independent line grown in Sweden and Finland. Seeds from that line grown here in 2000 did not produce particularly vigorous plants and the line is lost to us for now.
In March of 1999, Butch
Weaver and Walter Pagels collected cruziana seeds in Argentina.
A few sprouted but none made it beyond a few floating leaves
and the rest of the seeds have not been viable. Leave it to the
quiet persistence of Joe Summers, Missouri Botanical Garden,
to get the job of obtaining viable wild seeds accomplished.
In April, though she was at MBG at the time, Elsa related to Joe, "40 fruits of Victoria cruziana just opening were collected by my field assistant in Paraguay (I had asked him to keep an eye open as soon as they ripened and before all the seeds were dispersed) and each fruit is being kept separate by my father (I told him so) !!" We bet Elsa could hear our cheers in Paraguay!
Of the 40 pods, many had been sun dried, Elsa thinking that the oxbow lakes from which they came sometimes dry out and that this might be beneficial to germination. Those seeds ultimately had to be discarded but the remainder which had been kept moist has every appearance of proving viable. After cleaning and counting, Joe sent most of the seeds to the Victoria Conservancy for germination studies and distribution and sent some to us to get started.
Elsa describes the collection sites: "They all come from the same area but in two oxbow lakes, each lake around two hectares but round shape, so the batches are from two populations, one in each lake, each population with dozens of plants. I would say that each fruit comes from a different plant because of how far we went to collect each fruit (they were sparse)." Another lot from the second lake was sent to Joe.
When Joe left MBG for other pursuits, he sent us a small plant from the third lot of seeds. It has since come to flower and, though small, is producing seeds from the first flower onward. It also has successfully pollinated several flowers on another smallish cruziana in the same pond. When we saw that the little Paraguayan was in bud and our weather was cooling off, we decided to "dome" the pond. It was already set up for a stock tank heater so the tent would help with water and air temps as well as protecting the plants from the wind. Several other young plants from the third and fourth lots are being stalled in smallish pots for spring installation.
Joe, Elsa and Missouri Botanical Garden are to be congratulated on this outstanding contribution to Victoria cultivation. It's the most exciting Victoria event in, oh, a century or so!
Seeds of the Century | Dissection of V. amazonica
1999 The Adventure Continues | 2000 A Very Bad Year | 2001 A Banner Year
2002 An Even Better Year | 2003 We Like It Like This | 2004 Trust
2005 Recovery | 2006 Normal? | 2007 Weird | 2008 Year of the Hare
2009 Year of the (White) Tortoise