Brunsvigia multiflora alba

Jim Lykos
Wed, 15 Jan 2003 06:01:02 PST
 Hi Bill,
  You have raised the significant mysteries in the development of theMultiflora hybrids.I'm not sure we can be positive aboutthe answers to this mystery - the following is what I have deduced but the real test will be inattempting aremaking ofthis intergeneric hybrid. In my mind an importantfactoris to separatethe "Multiflora"hybrids raised from an Amaryllis seed parent with those with a Brunsvigia seed parent.The x Multiflora bulbs retrieved from a few old country home gardens have the glaucous foliage you referred to and are poor seeders, and are sometimes sterile. I'm still of the opinion that these are not the sameas the hybrids raised from an Amaryllis seed parent bya Brunsvigia multiflora. 

As you stated thecurrent x multiflora hybrid varietieshave an increased fertile capacity and are prolific in seed bearing and are easy to breed from and flower. They can generally be identifiedby factors such as a yellow throat,large bulb and flower size, propensity to flower between 20 to 30 flowers, and a long pseudo stem.The older hybrids with huge bulbs that have survived I think are largely from the Brunsvigia seed parents, theyusually have glaucous and prostrate leaves, are slower to grow, more difficult to flower, have short pseudo stems andare more intense in flower colour than the soft tones of the water coloured picture of the first long pedicellated multiflora hybrid. The majority of them have josephinae parentage, but there are others that can be identified as alba and rosea forms ofthe multiflora hybrid. 

Much of Les Hannibals initial work with the Australian Multiflora's was done withhybrids from what I imaged were hybrids from Brunsvigia seed parents, and these were collected from an abandoned farm in arid country in South Australia where the rainfall was five inches per year. The fact that they multiplyed and survived these conditions testifies to their drought tolerance. 

Les also continued to ponder over the real identity of B. 'multiflora', and considered the possibility that a Cybistetes variant was involved in the hybrid. He was also aware of the views of the Australian bulb breeder and horticultural writer named G.K. Cowlishaw, who thought that the real identity o fB. multiflora was B. grandiflora. It appears that the seedlings of a number of Amaryllis crosses were created and some were sold as seedlings in Australia from at least 1843. It is also likely that these and additional hybrid crosseswere reproduced by either MacArthurs daughters or gardeners at Camden Park over successive years.There are a number of yearly catalogues of Plants under Cultivation and available for sale from Camden Park, and they list the following Amaryllid seedlingsin 1843: Amaryllis blanda, Amaryllis blando x josephiniana, Amaryllis josephiniana, Brunsvigia multiflora, and Cybistetes longiflora. 

There is no mention however, ofAmaryllis belladonna x B. multiflora - they were apparently either selling these hybrids as B. multiflora or they were not made available. In 1850 Amaryllis Ameliae (hybrid) was added to the list.This may have been the first named variety of the the x Multiflora hybrid. All these plants were still for sale in the final 1857 catalogue. The fact that Cybistetes longiflora was growing and propagated atCamden Parkbrings in another possibilityfor the source of the white Amaryllis hybrids with yellow throats. One of MacArthurs daughters was latter to become Lady Parkerandshe introduced what came to be known as Amaryllis Parkerii alba to England. I mention this because it is possible that the x multiflora hybrids were developed after Bidwells departure, and that the training in hybridisation given them by Bidwell may have produced these results by backcrossing or selfing a semifertile F1 hybrid.

The apparent deficiences in fertility and pollen production of many of Bidwells multiflora hybrids is mentioned in his 1849 letter, and I can only assume that this was not common to all the seedlings that were flowered. He didcomment also that out of around 300 seeds of the multiflora hybrid (Brunsvigia seed parent) only about 20 germinated and he found it difficult to grow B. josephineaxAmaryllis belladonna hybrids. Bidwell statedthat the colour of the first hybrid seedlings to flower from the Amaryllis seed parents, were variable and generally like that of Passiflora Kermesina?, but many were blotched with white. The watercolour painting held bythe Mitchell Library of the first flowered Amaryllis x Brunsvigia hybrid shows flowers of a even medium pink, like a good coloured Crinum moorei, it was bearing about 40 flowers. 

The multiflora crosses he said were vaiable in colour and shape and had wider and more even segments than those using B. josephinea. So it seems clear that white hybrids didnt appear in the first batches of hybrid seedlings and may really have arisen as F2 hybrids from selflings or sibling crosses. Surprisingly, it is'nt apparent that Bidwell knew that MacArthur had plants of Amaryllis Blanda, as he mentions glowingly of having obtained two seedling bulbs of this Amaryllis hybrid from Herbert in1843. He was a sporactic vistor to Australia in the 1840's- returning to England to work with Herbert and then back to Australia a couple of times to undertake botanical exploration and plant collectingtrips in New Zealand and many of the larger Islands of the South Pacific. Copies of letters beween Bidwell and and MacArthur and other notable gentry gardeners of the NSW Colony cover the period from 1843 to 1849 and there may yet be some further evidence about his hybridising endevours.

Les Hannibal mentions that Bidwell made the multiflora hybrids a second time when instructing Macathurs daughters. I'mgrowing bulbs from five collections of the Multiflora or Josephinea hybrids (Brunsvigia seed parent) that I've swaped or bought in Australia over the past four years - however, I have yet to flower any of these but I have been given a picture of one of them! They all appear to me to be more drought tolerant than the belladonna seed hybrids - since their bulbs are significantly larger and they have come from semi-arid parts of Australia with very dry summers. However, because they have fewer pups, were only really distributed in during the 1840's and 1850's, are slower growing and less fertile than belladonna (seed parent) hybrids. Evidence from surviving receipt books of plants sold by the Camden Park Estate, reveal that most plants (fruit and oranmental trees / bulbs/ roses/ shrubs) were being sold tothe newly landed gentry in Australia, and the majority of sales were to people who were openning up sheep stations and grain farms across the ariable parts of Australia, and wanted to establish gardens and orchards with plants that would manage their conditions. 

By 1861 the Baptist City Nursery in Sydney (owned byJohn Baptist a Portugese immigrant) , was selling seedlings of Amaryllis belladonna, Brunsvigia multiflora, Amaryllis josephinea and a hybrid called Amaryllis Ruby Cunda. I assume that the Brunsvigias were possibly by this stage mainly Amaryllis and Brunsvigia hybrids and that the one called Ruby Cunda was similar to the scarlet flowered hybrid of which we have the 1861 etching. If not, we may well have to look to John Baptist for the development ofthe alba and rosea multiflora hybrids. Francis Ferguson and Sons took over the Camden Park Estate Australian Nursery andby 1861 they were listing only choice selections of Amaryllis belladonna. By the 1880's the multiflora/Amaryllis seedlings sold by the Baptist Nursery were relabelled by other nurseries as Amaryllis Baptistii 'alba' and 'rosea', which maybe an indication that they had been developed varieties, while some nurseries sold Brunsvigia sorted seedlings and a white flowered Amaryllis belladonna named 'Blanda'.

By 1900 the nursery trade in Australia had given the Amaryllis belladonna and hybrid bulbs a number of varietal names; these were - 

Blanda Magnifica 
Major Minor
Multiflora Purpurescens major
Rosa Perfecta 
Rubra Speciosa purpurea

This is the real start of the varietal name using 'Multiflora' - originally they were only the alba and rosea forms known in the beginning as Amaryllis multiflora hybrids, but by the 1930's as they were being called Brunsvigia multiflora hybrids - and about another 9 named varieties of the multiflora group were added by the 1950's. I'll continue to research the development of multiflora and other Amaryllis hybrids in Australia - there is still some way to go. As I've yet to find a Amaryllis hybrid that resembles the description and water colour of the initial Multiflora hybrids and we have to recover all the varieties of X mutliflora. 

I visited Camden Park Estate for the first time in September 2002, the orginial home and about 1000 acres of the estate are still in the hands of 5th generation descendants ofthe MacArthurs. There area number of bulbous plants that have survived the ravages of time and drought -the Amaryllis plants growing in the large gardens there appear similar to the multiflora alba and rosea hybrids that we see today. There was no sign ofthe large glacuous leafed hybrids.I'll try to get back there in February to photograph the plants in flower.

Jim Lykos

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