As N. 'William Phillips' was
making news, molecular evidence was being gathered in Germany
confirming the close relationship between Anecphya and
Brachyceras, indicating that hybridization between them
was possible. These papers were published in 2007, and links
to these and other startling discoveries are here -- New
Waterlily Family Relationships 2007
These hybrids are exciting because they revolutionize our
thinking about possible crosses but they also potentially have
a practical application as well. Not only is Anecphya
extraordinarily beautiful but it is also notoriously difficult
to cultivate. Might these crosses be easier to cultivate than
pure Anecphya, allowing more water gardeners to grow waterlilies
with Australian characteristics?
In late 2006 Yasuhiro Satou sent me a tuber of N. 'Yasuhiro'.
Through early 2007, I was able to multiply it fairly easily.
Of interest to me was that tubers produced were very like those
of its pollen parent N. 'White Colorata'. In late February
the plants were growing AND making tubers in very warm water
with the days lengthening. Tuber formation at that time would
be more typical of N. colorata -- N. gigantea would
grow and not form a tuber or go dormant to form one.
The largest 'Yasuhiro' flowered in a heated pond and I decided
to plant it in an unheated pond in early May. It promptly rotted
but I was able to retrieve a tuber. I planted a second one in
the same location in early June. It grew well throughout the
season but never attained the size of its Anecphya pod
parent. Was this my growing conditions (where pure Anecphya
usually grows very large) or was it genetic? For those who may
want smaller plants that look like Australians, this could be
a big plus.
The end of July 2007, William Phillips sent me his 'William
Phillips' plant as he was cutting back his operation in Memphis,
Tennessee. He hoped I could propagate it or at least perpetuate
it. The plant was too large to propagate - big tropicals rarely
tuber or produce new plants - but it is alive in winter 2008
and I've had the opportunity to work with it. I made repeated
attempts to pollinate the first day flowers with pollen from
another of its own blooms, N. 'Yasuhiro' and N. immutabilis.
No pods or seeds were produced. In fact it didn't really produce
pollen. There was something on the anthers that looked like very
small grains under the microscope but they were not viable.
N. 'Yasuhiro' on the other hand made abundant pollen.
It produced a few seeds pollinated from another of its own flowers
and by N. ampla. These have not yet sprouted. The plant
was overgrown by early October. Neither adding sand around the
crown nor, later, "turning" the rhizome could save
the plant. A smaller plant in another pond produced 14 seeds
from a pod I didn't breed. That plant quit in late fall without
producing a tuber that I could find. That 'Yasuhiro' is fertile
is very encouraging and could lead to other interesting hybrids.
Looking at all three hybrids, the primary aspect that sets
them apart from their parents is their stamens. The first two
have the same pollen parent, N. 'White Colorata' (a sport
of N. colorata), so one might think it was responsible
for the stamen color, given that 'Wood's Blue Goddess' also has
maroon stamens and has N. colorata as a parent. However,
Helmi's hybrid, N. 'Andre Leu' x N. 'Miami Rose',
probably negates this thinking. It is interesting that a different
member of Brachyceras, and a hybrid, can make a successful
cross with Anecphya, opening many possibilities.