In Defense of Bastards
by John Banta

The Australian protested, "With over 700 species of Anthuriums to grow, why in the hell do you breed all these bastards?" After a few more beers I realized this guy was a case-hardened "species snob". I sorta feel sorry for people who confuse the package with the contents. Haven't they read any of Dawkins? The genes are where the action is.

Let me give you an example. Anthurium dressleri Croat is a very difficult plant to grow in Florida because of its need for the day/night temperature difference. The only A. dressleri genes left in Florida are in a couple of hybrids made by Harry Luther years ago. These hybrids still provide a source of genes for a velvet leaf surface and compact growth.

The plant collector looks at the beauty of the plant. But, this is only the first step. The collector has a responsibility not only to keep the plant alive but to assist the plant (collection of genes) in long term survival. Asexual propagation is nice but so slow and limited. Setting seed is always the best strategy. Anthuriums pose a problem in seed production. The female flowers are ready for pollen before the pollen is produced on that inflorescence. A clever way to prevent self-pollination but a real problem to the breeder. Pollen can be saved on aluminum foil at room temperature. It often becomes moldy if kept in a refrigerator. It takes a number of the same species to get enough flowers at the right time to procduce "pure"seed.

If the breeder is willing to accept "bastards" his job is a lot easier. Whatever pollen is available is used on the receptive female flowers. Sometimes the pollen doesn't fertilize the egg but may stimulate the production of good seed which will be like the female parent. Generally there is a mixture of genes and the resulting hybrids can be very interesting.

The main point here is, set seed on your Anthuriums. Don't worry about too many details. Just do it!

Copyright © 2007 by Neil Carroll. All rights reserved.