Thank you MSc Plant Diversity at Reading, Global Plant Biodiversity and Conservation module, for giving UK & Irish threatened garden cultivars a hearing on Friday.
These snaps are from our late morning session, investigating Fuchsia cultivars threatened in cultivation – starting with Reading Herbarium specimens, of course. Hello @RNGherb !
And what were we reading? Typing, print, handwriting, websites, and of course photographs, drawings and real (if dead) plants. Ah, a variety of sources.
Excitingly (aren’t we modern), Sara (not pictured) and Jan were (only for the second time) remoting in to the class via Skype. They were very much part of the team, simultaneously checking UK nursery website descriptions from the only remaining supplier, Clay Lane Nursery, and the International Cultivar Registration Authority’s notes from America against the threatened list online.
So what happened?
First uncovered was Fuchsia boliviana var. puberulenta cultivar ‘Alba’. Not in either list: was it an even rarer unknown cultivar? The name made me nervous, as so many “alba”s become demoted to varieties rather than cultivars. But as someone pointed out, it was already a variety, the alba couldn’t be a variety too? We checked the RHS horticultural database online: 5 answers for the search on keywords fuchsia+boliviana+alba. It was a synonym; now the white Bolivian fuchsia is indeed a variety. What was interesting was the last record returned – one of its parents was a cultivar which seemed to be the opposite cross of another specimen revealed in the lab (working through all the species and subspecies names). Thank goodness people don’t commonly swap sexes and have another child!
We looked up a cultivar ‘Versicolor’ – again, some different versions of the name, but not threatened.
We found ‘Mary’, with arrestingly intense red flowers, despite being made more than 25 years ago. It was not one of the numerous Mary Somethings on the threatened list, but it was on the long list as not threatened. Nothing to worry about? However, our remote students reported the ICRA listed it as white/pale pink flowers and bred/registered in 1997. Was ours an original, extinct ‘Mary’ whose name had since been reused? More than one person believed it had really been Mary Something mis-transcribed. Or, someone else suggested, had different ones been independently named in the UK and America? There shouldn’t be by now… I’ve just checked the RHS and their photo looks like the Reading specimen. Not threatened – it’s even got an Award of Garden Merit. It’s also interesting that we’ve got many on the UK “all known” list, even just in the Marys, that haven’t made it into the ICRA database yet. Hmm.
‘Deben Petite’ provided another mystery. Currently Threatened in cultivation, its UK breeder was in no doubt, although the spelling and date varied between sources. And the mounted specimen had a disclaimer…
I had brought Wagtails Book of Fuchsias from the Plant Heritage bookshelf (our office is the size of a portakabin, so I hesitate to call it a library) These friendly volumes were hand-drawn and written by the nursery over many years of devotion. One of the students found both ‘Deben Petite’ and three different renditions of F. paniculata to compare.
I hope everyone enjoyed their glimpse of the project and the idea of cultivar conservation! Don’t forget Threatened Plants are now on Twitter as @SaveTheCvs
And just think, back in 1771 there was only one fuchsia species known…