Derek the Hybrid Detective

DD0515 x Biltanthus
by Derek Butcher. J.Brom.Soc. 62(4): 173-176. 2012

Some may say they have never heard of this nothogenus and yet it has been around since 1947 but nobody alerted the Bromeliad Cultivar Registrar. Recently Alan Herndon of Florida and myself have been discussing the advantage of having many of the old catalogues in digital form and perhaps be part of the BSI archives. These days it is easy to do via a scanner and pdf. Ever since the Bromeliad Cultivar Register was published in 1998 I have pondered over the references quoted because I never believed I would ever be able to actually see these when they were old catalogues. When they referred to botanical publications I was able to research and translate many only to find in some cases wrong information had been interpreted and in others it only referred to a plant being in a certain exhibition and thus worthless!

My contribution to the cause was mainly catalogues from Australia whereas Alan was able to supply some of Roehrs Catalogues from New Jersey, USA. We have grown Neoregelia ‘Roehr’s Best’ for many years in Australia so I was curious to find out something about its origins. We did not find this plant but did find out that its spelling should be ‘Roehrs’s Best’.
Anyway, my wife, Margaret, was looking over my shoulder and said “What is a Biltanthus?”
First I contacted Jason Grant who was one of the authors of ‘An Annotated catalogue of generic names of the Bromeliaceae’ in Selbyana 19(1): 1998 and he said ‘Argh’. I contacted the IPNI (International Plant Names Index) and they said ‘Valid’!

This was what all the fuss was about, because under ICBN (International Code of Botanical Nomenclature) Rules, the first validly-published new bigeneric genus name must be accepted.
Biltanthus beuckeri (Billbergia and Cryptanthus hybrid) green mottled bronze, narrow pointed foliage. $1.00 to 1.50”
This means that the following disappears:
xCryptbergia Anon., Bull. Bromeliad Soc. 2: 72. 1952.
Parent genera: Cryptanthus Otto & A. Dietr., Allg. Gartenzeitung 4: 298. 17 Sep 1836 and Billbergia Thunb., Pl. bras. 3: 30. 5 Jun 1821.
To be replaced by
xBiltanthus Exotics, Catalogue of Julius Roehrs Company, March 1, 1947
Parent genera: Billbergia Thunb., Pl. bras. 3: 30. 5 Jun 1821.and Cryptanthus Otto & A. Dietr., Allg. Gartenzeitung 4: 298. 17 Sep 1836.

Now for the name changes that will affect you when writing labels or writing articles. The first one is undoubtedly xCryptbergia ‘Mead’ which will become xBiltanthus ‘Beucker’ because ‘beuckeri’ was the first name used! Are we talking about the same plant? I think so, because by the name it would suggest one of the parents was Cryptanthus beuckeri and the favourite Billbergia of Theodore Mead was Billbergia nutans. There is a very long article in Phytologia 30(5): 292-295. 1975 by L B Smith and R W Read where they discussed the nothogenus xCryptbergia. To me it is a very surprising article to be in Phytologia because it was correcting misnomers in the Bromeliad Society Bulletin and was directed at bromeliad growers, not botanists. If you are interested in what was said this is on the Bromeliad Cultivar Register ( under x Cryptbergia Notes. What is interesting is that in the book ‘Bromeliads in Cultivation’ by R G and C Wilson (1963) we see “Billtanthus” (sic) mentioned, but nothing more. Perhaps they were aware that an opposition nursery, Roehrs Company, were using this name but did not disclose it. In any event L B Smith and R W Read did not follow up on this reference. As for identity, I leave you to decide whether the photo of xCryptbergia ‘Mead’ in J Brom Soc.27(5): 217. 1977 is correct. To give an idea of shape and size I show a copy taken from the Exotics catalogue 1947 – see B30. Thanks to Donald Beard, of New South Wales, Australia we are able to show, for the first time, what this bigeneric looks like.

Other changes are
xCryptbergia ‘Curly Locks’ now xBiltanthus ‘Curly Locks’
xCryptbergia ‘Fantasy’ now xBiltanthus ‘Fantasy’
xCryptbergia ‘Goodale’ now xBiltanthus ‘Goodale’
xCryptbergia ‘Hazel Quilhot’ now xBiltanthus ‘Hazel Quihot’
xCryptbergia ‘Hombre’ now xBiltanthus ‘Hombre’
xCryptbergia ‘Pinkie’ now xBiltanthus ‘Pinkie’
xCryptbergia ‘Pinkinskie’ now xBiltanthus ‘Pinkinskie’
xCryptbergia ‘Red Burst’ now xBiltanthus ‘Red Burst’
xCryptbergia ‘Resplendent’ now xBiltanthus ‘Resplendent’
xCryptbergia ‘Tiger Eye’ now xBiltanthus ‘Tiger Eye’
xCryptbergia ‘Topaz’ now xBiltanthus ‘Topaz’

Breaking News – Paul Butler of Florida who is doing a biography of Theodore L Mead has just sent me a copy of a page from Mead’s notebooks dated April 1926. We read;
B. nutans x C. beuckeri germinated and survived
(B. nutans x B. zebrine) x C. beuckeri germinated and survived
The only problem here is to decide which of the two crossings survived to become xBiltanthus ‘Beucker’.
You may also note that Billbergia nutans x B. zebrine has never been registered and I wonder whether this is the origin of ‘Theodore L Mead’ when you consider what would distinguish it from Billbergia nutans x B. decora, the said parents of B. Windii’.

Updated 05/05/15