A. belladonna "Hathor"

Jim Lykos jimlykos@optusnet.com.au
Tue, 16 Aug 2005 08:51:03 PDT
Hi Diana and Bill,

I think we are now close to realising how Amaryllis Hathor came into being. In Australia, Hathor  was originally released around 1930 by nurseries as Brunsvigia multiflora Hathor.  Nursery catalogues have called it every variant of its parentage ever since, and only from the 1950's has it  been sold here as Amaryllis Hathor or Amaryllis belladonna Hathor. Very rarely is the real Hathor sold as most nurseries sell bulbs under the name of Hathor that are seedlings of seedlings of Hathor siblings or xParkeri alba or a variety called  'Harbord'. However xAmarygia Hathor is undoubtedly of  hybrid origin. 

 In the 1935 volume of Herbertia is an article on 'Amaryllid Activities in Australia' by George Keith Cowlishaw. He mentions that HHB Bradley who breed A. Hathor around 1905, told him  that he made it by crossing a Brunsvigia multiflora alba with a Brunsvigia multiflora rosea. 
The terminology  Brunsvigia multiflora was then used (in Australia) for hybrids between  Amaryllis belladonna and Brunsvigia multiflora. However, the actual identity of Brunsvigia multiflora has been a subject of speculation and a couple of potential species such as Cybisitetes and Brunsvigia grandiflora were considered as likely candidates by Les Hannibal because there was evidence in the  Australian hybrids of parentage other than B. josephinea in some Australian xAmarygia's.
The 5 named varieties of  Brunsvigia (Amaryllis) multiflora released by the Holloway Bros wholesale nursery in Sydney, from the 1920's to the 1950's - typically bear between 16 and 40 flowers per inflorescence. 
An Australian  bulb breeder has  recently flowered numbers of plants of both Amaryllis belladonna x B. josephinea and the reverse cross B. josephinea x Amaryllis belladonna grown from crosses he made 12 years ago. He has confirmed what I had expected from the evidence of some heritage Amaryllis hybrids in my collection.  The seed from the Amaryllis parent in this hybrid results in a Amaryllis like flower with  tapering petals that are reflexed and usually whitish with pink tips  and a yellow centre or,  rose coloured flowers with whitist centres and yellow eyes. The bulbs are large and round and prefer to grow with about two thirds of the bulb exposed above the earth. 
They are often also self infertile and seed fertile with a limited number of  Amaryllis hybrids. The Brunsvigia seed parent has flowers that are quite distinctive - totally rich red with a cerise sheen and are intermediate in shape between  B. josephinea and Amaryllis but with the size of Amaryllis and seed infertile.

We now know that during the 1870's the creator of 'Hathor'  HHB Bradley, purchased 'Grantham'  a colonial sandstone cottage set on a garden of 12 acres overlooking Sydney harbour - on the North Sydney side where the Sydney Harbour bridge now has its ramps and highway. 'Grantham' was built by Admiral Phillip Parker King in the early 1840's, and the designer of his garden which included beds of bulbs from South Africa, was John Crane Bidwill. Bidwill was the first person to hybridise both ways and flower Amaryllis with Brunsvigia multiflora and Brunsvigia josephinea. We also know that he made these hybrids in three different gardens within Sydney.  So it appears very likely that Hathor was created by Bradley's use of  F1 or F2  Brunsvigia multiflora rosea and alba hybrids found in his garden from Bidwills hybridising legacy in the 1840's.

It is quite unlikely that the Hathor that Les Hannibal grew was the real Hathor - and it was more likely to have been Brunsvigia multiflora 'Harbord' a larger white flowered multiflora hybrid with ruffled petals released by the Holloway Bros in 1927. This seems evident as Les Hannibal reported that Hathor had an exceptionally seed fertile flower - which is true of the Harbord variety. Les Hannibals comments about Hathor are at variance with G. Cowlishaw remarks in his 1935 paper - where he reports that Hathor was almost infertile. My own experience with Hathor is that it is self infertile, and infertile with the majority of Amaryllis varieties with the exception of a couple of multiflora forms.

The real Hathor can still be found at the Sydney Botanical Gardens - where I've noted that the couple of hundred bulbs have not set any seed for the three or four seasons that I have observed them.   

Jim Lykos
Blue Mountains Sydney

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