Derek the Hybrid Detective

DD1209d Vriesea ‘Goldfinger’.
by Derek Butcher December 2009

This all started in November when Mick Romanowski from Melbourne sent me a Vriesea dubia in bud and asking me to butcher it. He was dubious about the name!
The plant flowered so I was able to dissect it and take scans of the various bits. I was even able to use a new gadget which I call my computer plug in microscope that I had got through Ian Hook, the BSA webmaster, to prove it had petal appendages!
Armed with this information I referred the matter to Harry Luther asking him to confirm this was really a Vriesea dubia with a yellow flower. Much to my surprise Harry was very dubious about the name and wanted more information! Subsequent investigation revealed that Peter Tristram from near Coff’s Harbour in New South Wales had imported an unknown Vriesea from Werner Krauspe in California around 1980. When it flowered, Harry said he considered it to be a Vriesea dubia. This is in line with a similar species Vr. Chrysostachys which can have either white or yellow flowers. This did not worry me but it did worry Peter because Vriesea alborubrobracteata was making its rounds and this was considered to be a synonym of V. Dubia. The rest of us Aussies blithely carried on propagating this Vr. Dubia. It grew well under many different growing conditions and its ‘gold fingers’ lasted for months. You rarely saw the yellow flowers poking up because they blended in with the yellow bracts! It never set seed!

Let us have a quick look at Smith & Downs Tillandsioideae 1977 where we have this group of vriesias included in the section Xiphion. Many of the species here are now treated in the genus Werauhia, leaving behind a hotchpotch of species in Vriesea. Grant in the 1990’s moved the more blatant oddbods from Vriesea to Werauhia and Alcantarea but left other oddbods behind! However, he did suggest that these ‘Colombian’ vrieseas seemed better treated as ‘Allardtia’! ( Pers Comm)
In the 1980’s V. Dubia and V. Chrysostachys were known to the botanic world and then Harry Luther introduced us to V. Ospinae in 1983. He did not know how variable this species could be because it was not until 1992 that var. gruberi was published.
So in the 1980’s he would have had a more narrow view of what V. Ospinae looked like.

Also in the 1980’s the hybridists in Europe were busy too with these new acquisitions and we know that Vr. ‘Elan’ came from this era. If you refer to the article on ‘Elan’ in ‘Uncle Derek says’ you will see the mess made on parentage quoted. We do not know what other hybrids were attempted either in Europe or the USA.
We now are in a quandary as to the true origins of ‘Goldfinger’ because you can see influences of V. Ospinae in it.
Is it man made or will it be found in the wild? The best solution is to give it a cultivar name....

Derek Butcher 12/09.

Updated 02/01/10