Schizostylis/Hesperantha a confused genus
Sun, 16 Feb 2003 03:11:00 PST
Hello All,
I live in SW Scotland.  If you look at any map of Scotland and go as far 
South and West as you can that's about right.  The climate is mild in this 
area as we get the benefits of the tail end of the Gulf Stream as it comes 
up through the Irish Sea.  Temperatures can occasionally go down to minus 
6 oC and high in summer would be around 25 oC, the mean average then being 
about 21 oC. From October through to the end of February the year we get 
heavy rainfall and indeed throughout the year  the generally damp moist 
climate, with an average of around 2000mm of rain p.a. promotes healthy 
growth, particularly for plants from areas like Chile and New Zealand.  In 
Scotland overall the average hours of sun per year total around 1400 
whereas in Southern England the figure would be nearer 1700.  I would hate 
potential visitors to think we live in some sort of Stygian gloom and we 
often get really warm sunny weather in May and June and August in 
particular.  So what am I doing talking about Shizostylis/Hesperantha ?
  I need to clarify one point before going any further.  In the UK 
Hesperantha and Schizostylis are still considered separately from a 
horticultural point of view.  I am well aware of the reduction of 
Schizostylis into Hesperantha by messrs Goldblatt and Manning and have no 
problem with this but at the moment our UK horticultural bodies have 
accepted their findings but not yet implemented the name change as they 
believe it may confuse our gardeners.  That ruling may change before long 
and I hope it does but it may explain why I concentrate on Schizostylis 
coccinea or, as most in N. America and elsewhere would call it, 
Hesperantha coccinea.
About 5 years ago I was given about a dozen different examples of 
Schizostylis coccinea that were being uprooted and needing a new home.  I 
soon realised that they thrived with me and after seeing how they flowered 
profusely in November and December I was hooked.  It may be cheaper than 
golf but it can be just as frustrating a hobby!  I collected more and more 
of the named varieties. There are currently 30 in the UK Plantfinder.   In 
2002 I applied for, and after a lot of on-site inspections and record 
preparation was awarded, full status for a National Collection of 
Schizostylis under the auspices of the National Council for the 
Conservation of Plants and Gardens, (NCCPG)

Mary Sue advises me that not everyone may be familiar with NCCPG so please 
bear with me whilst I give a short resume.  It is an independent national 
organisation set up 25 years ago with the aim of conserving plant 
diversity and recording plants in danger of extinction through dedicated 
national collections across the UK, as well as gardens, albeit the latter 
has become somewhat secondary in the way of things.  Twenty-five years on 
there are 43 Regional Groups across Britain and over 6000 members.  I, 
until recently, chaired my SW Scotland group and quite demanding that was 
too!  Some 650 National Collections are held throughout the UK and I 
believe they contain around over 60,000 plant varieties, many saved from 
extinction by the voluntary action of the botanical gardens, institutions, 
private gardeners, etc, who look after them.    I understand there are 
similar if maybe less comprehensive bodies elsewhere across the globe but 
NCCPG is probably unique in that it embraces such wide support across the 

Over the past few months I have been considering the problems associated 
with differentiating between the various named Schizostylis,and I shall 
concentrate on what we call Schizostylis from now on rather than 
Hesperantha.   I now have around 40 in the Collection and am aware there 
are still others out there.  (A full list of what I hold is listed at the 
end of this piece.)  Gradually I and another colleague who holds a similar 
collection in the South of England have come to the same conclusion.  It 
is virtually impossible to separately identify some of the named cultivars 
in circulation.  Whether one uses traditional horticultural methods of 
comparison such as colour, flower heads per stalk, length of perianth, 
etc,  the differences are so minutely finite that one can understand why 
many of the examples in circulation are either misnamed or renamed!  Does 
it matter?  Well if you are responsible for the integrity of a National 
Collection it does.  Quite apart from the fact that there are 
unfortunately just a few unscrupulous, or perhaps ill informed  traders, 
who will take advantage of confusion to introduce existing varieties under 
a new and much promoted name.  

But how to sort the problem out?  By chance, (another story perhaps) I 
came across an eminent scientific researcher in a UK University who was 
well qualified in DNA analysis on plant material and had recently 
developed a very interesting commercial application in this field that 
received much media attention.
She has now agreed to carry out DNA analysis on Schizostylis material 
supplied by me to see if there is a way of determining differences between 
the various cultivars.  I know nothing about DNA analysis but she believes 
it may be possible and initial work has already started on this long-term 
project.  It will cost quite a lot of money and time and effort, all 
problems there to be overcome and I hope to be able to apply for grant 
funding over the months ahead.
My role as the simple layman, and I have little technical expertise to 
offer except some 25 years hands on gardening experience, is to try and 
establish just how many varieties, sports, cultivars, whatever we may call 
them, of Schizostylis exist and try and gather as many as I can for the 
tests, as well as for the National Collection itself.  A task that 
gradually convinces me that championship golf might well indeed have been 
a much simpler challenge!  Already, through the PBS I have learned of more 
new ones and acquired 2 new examples as well.   I might even want to 
extend into collecting Hesperantha in time and it is possible I believe 
that cross cultivation might bring about new colour sports but that is a 
long way off in the calendar.  All in all I have so far had some 
interesting contacts for someone who was kindly permitted to join you all 
only a month ago. Thanks Cathy and Mary Sue!

I now list the examples held by me at present and provide some info on 
names I have heard of but have not yet tracked down.    The numbers are 
my accession numbers in the Collection

Schizostylis coccinea held in the National Collection.

02010 S. c.Jennifer
02011 S. c.Oregon Sunset	
02012 S.c.Hint of Pink
02013 S.c. Salmon Charm	
02014 S.c. Mrs. Hegarty	
02015 S.c.Zeal Salmon
02016 S.c.Sunrise	 
02017 S.c. Tambara		
02018 S.c. Hilary Gould
02019 S.c.Professor Barnard		
02020 S.c.November Cheer
02021 S.c. Viscountess Byng		
02022 S.c. Elburton Glow
02023 S.c. Red Dragon  (A particularly sturdy and brilliant red form)	
02024 S.c. Hannah Gould
02025 S.c.Hannah Gubbay		
02026 S.c. Maidens Blush
02027 S.c. Mollie Gould	
02028 S.c. Seedling A 	
02029S.c.Snow Maiden
02030 S.c. Jack Frost		
02031 S.c. Silver Pink		
02032 S.c.late flowering
02033 S.c.Anne	
02034 S.c. Cindy Towe	
02035 S.c. Caroline
02036 S.c. J&L 244

Ordered and a/w delivery, S.C Vera, S.c Big Moma, S.c. Pink Princess, S.c. 
Christine de vere, S.c. Major Superba

In addition it is understood the following exist but have not yet been 
traced as at 11 Feb,03 : -

The Bride,   Rosalie,   Rosea,   November Charm,   Mary Barnado,   Pink 
Ice,   Zeal Blush,  Rose Glow, Edward E Bowles, Salome, Pink Marg and 
Strawberry.  Crimson Flag is often mentioned but I believe this is simply 
another common general name for the genus.

 If anyone can provide new names and if possible a description and a 
supplier that indeed would be very much appreciated.  I am also interested 
in hearing about your experiences in growing these colourful plants.  They 
are often ignored for flower arranging but have lots of potential in that 
I apologise for such a lengthy piece but can only say you are lucky you 
are all bulb enthusiasts as if you had got me going on my real penchant 
for collecting tulip tree cultivars and cercis cultivars you would be 
sitting at your screens a lot longer!  Thanks for bearing with me, Alan 

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