Derek the Hybrid Detective

DD0312d Dyckia ‘Rabbit Warren Group’
by Derek Butcher, March 2012

This saga started in the late 1950’s when an attractive Dyckia dawsonii was being grown at Huntington gardens in California. Here all the dyckias are all grown together and we know that any seed collected here is almost certain to be a hybrid. We know that Adelaide Bot Garden fell into this trap by assuming that seed sent from Huntington were true species until the time came to try to link flowering plants to their formal descriptions. Anyway, anecdotal evidence shows that both Dutch Vandervort and Bill Baker, both of California had offsets of D. Dawsonii. We also know that the Zurich Bot Garden obtained an offset in the old days and arrangements are being made for an offset to go back to Huntington.

Now let us look at intentional hybridists because SOMEONE crossed D. Fosteriana with another attractive D. Platyphylla but did not bother to name their cross. It was identified by formula and it was not until 2003 that I found someone in Florida growing this plant where it was said that Ervin Wurthmann was the hybridist. We registered this as ‘James Gray’ and ‘James Green’ because there were two forms which is strange for an F1 hybrid but reasonable because we know that Foster himself got adulterated seed from his very own D. Fosteriana and unwittingly distributed incorrectly identified seedlings. We know that Bill Baker sometime in the 1980’s crossed D. Dawsonii with (fosteriana x platyphylla) and called the seed batch ‘Brittle Star’. We have a photo of ‘Brittle Star’ in the Bromeliad Cultivar Register that came from Chanin in Thailand who got his plant from Baker. However, from the parents quoted we know the seedling batch would have been varied.
Bill Baker then crossed D. marnier-lapostollei with ‘Brittle Star’ to produce ‘Warren’ which again must have had varied progeny but nobody seems to be growing it the USA so we can get a photo of at least one of those called ‘Warren’.

We now move to Australian shores where we read in the Far North Coast Bromeliad Study Group NSW newsletter March 2012:
“Ruby Ryde brought into Australia Dyckia ‘Warren' from the USA and collected seed from it which she grew. Helen Clewett obtained some of the resultant seedlings as Dyckia ‘Warren F2’ (Sons of Warren) of which Helen collected and grew seed from in 2008/2009. Helen presented these seedlings to show the great variation in these hybrids. She also showed three dyckias which she had acquired from Genny Vauhkonen (Catlan) some 30 months ago. These were labelled Dyckia 'Paulsen's Puzzle' and the variation among these dyckias was also noted as one plant possessed white spines, another red spines, the third much narrower leaves than it's siblings.
Also mentioned was, with hybridization these dyckias have tended to stay small and clump well, making them popular as potted specimen plants. (see photo)”

Such are the problems we are facing with Dyckia plants which these days are more likely to be unidentified hybrids than species as well as the reluctance of growers of seed to cull. The answer seems to be in an unofficial grex approach. The name ‘Paulsen’s Puzzle’ does suggest odd goings on and if we did adopt the name ‘Rabbit Warren Group’ it would suggest the plants are as fecund and promiscuous as rabbits.

Let us look at the problem as in Australia. To my mind Helen’s seedlings are really an F5 (or is it F6?) generation (Grandsons of Warren) and yet this F5 notation suggests that foreign pollen has never been involved, but which is highly likely in Dyckia.
Is Ruby Ryde still growing her original ‘Warren’? Thanks to Ian Hook we now have a photo of ‘Warren’ when at its prime. You see, the problem is that although Helen kept the F2 on her labels many did not do so, so there are many false ‘Warren’ or Sons of Warren out there. AND THAT IS NOT ALL because we know that Bob Larnach was so impressed with Ruby’s plant that he imported seed from Bill Baker of ‘Warren’ and we do not know how diligent Bill Baker was in getting ‘pure’ seed. Here again many of the resultant seedlings were grown as ‘Warren’, without the F2 indicator, in Australia. So if you are growing a plant called ‘Warren’ it should look like its photo. I’ll bet that there are Warren’s great grandchildren and unnamed nieces and nephews around too.

Helen Clewett. "Grandsons" of 'Warren' F3 at 2012. Photo Ross Little
"Sons" of 'Warren' from John Catlan.
Photo Ross Little 03/12.
Dyckia 'Warren'
Ruby Ryde 05/04, BSA show Grand Champion. Photo Ian Hook.

Updated 21/03/12