Derek the Hybrid Detective

DD1210 Tillandsia Victoria.
by Derek Butcher December 2010

In November 2010 I received a query from Margaret Paterson of Gympie in Queensland regarding this large T. ‘Victoria’ she had got from New Zealand many years ago. Was it a ‘Victoria’ because it was much larger than others she had which also had the name ‘Victoria’. Now for a bit of history:

“A NEW HYBRID TILLANDSIA by Mulford B. Foster in Brom Soc Bull 6(1): 10. 1956

Tillandsia X Victoria M. B. Foster hyb. nov.
(Tillandsia ionantha X T. brachycaulos) Type No. 2896 (U.S. National Herbarium)
(Not held in US, probably never sent! – Butcher Nov 2010)
This new hybrid was made in March 1943; it matured and flowered for the first time in 1954. In all its characters it resembles a king- size T. ionantha and shows none of the features of its paternal plant T. brachycaulos, except that it has a slight trace of a scape, although it is not visible nor evident as in T. brachycaulos. In every other feature, however, it is just a giant sized T. ionantha.

In flower this new hybrid measures from five to six inches to the top of its flowers. All the leaves turn to a luscious cerise pink crowned with its many purple "candle" flowers in the center. Few Tillandsias, when in flower, command any greater admiration than T. ionantha; multiply this display many times and you have T. X Victoria in all its glory.

There are few records of Tillandsia hybrids. Principally, I feel sure, because of the long lapse of time between the date when the cross is made until the final maturity of the new hybrid; I doubt if this waiting period is rarely less than ten years and with some species it could be fifteen to twenty years.

This was my first success in hybridizing Tillandsias, so, it is with much pleasure that this new hybrid, Tillandsia X Victoria is named in honor of Miss Victoria Padilla, the enthusiastic and indispensable secretary of The Bromeliad Society:”

The accompanying photo shows a plant three times as wide as high and suggests a width of about 30cm. It would have been a great sight for such a large plant.

Investigation of plants currently being grown under the name ‘Victoria’ in Australia and New Zealand shows plants from 10cm diam to below 20cm, each with vivid red colouring when in flower. Why the discrepancy in size? Why the range of sizes and yet still smaller that Foster’s original? Do all offsets link to Foster’s original crossing?

Margaret’s LARGE ‘Victoria’ from New Zealand (plant 30 cm high x 25 cm diam) suggested links to Muriel Waterman who was probably the first real Bromeliad grower in New Zealand and she did have lots of correspondence with Mulford. This could easily be the source of this plant but we are unable to prove this. Nobody in New Zealand seems to be growing this large form, and medium sized ones seem to prevail coming from various old sources where the trails go cold. Size may be large purely because the plant does not get the trigger to flower and it just grows and grows. Conversely, Margaret’s plant seems to flower regularly!

Are we dealing with unreported remakes by unknown hybridists of T. ionantha x brachycaulos? I believe this is the case. We do know that in 1960 Dr Richard Oeser in Germany did this cross because he sent seed to Olwen Ferris in Australia. In the same period he also sent seed of Neoregelia hybrids AND he also sent seed to the USA from the same crossings. Therefore seed from this remake of ‘Victoria’ could well have got to the USA.
In any event the seeds sent to Australia did germinate and seedlings were distributed. The records in 1982 show that these could have been sold as either ‘Victoria’ or ‘Victoria Oeser’. The use of the epithet cv Richard Oeser was recorded because it was unknown at the time as to how it differed from ‘Victoria’. These days the use of cv is taboo because you cannot have a cultivar of a cultivar.
Relative sizes supplied by Margaret Paterson are as follows:
‘Victoria’ remake by Paterson
19 cm
17 cm
‘Victoria’ “Dr Oesser"
12 cm
13 cm
‘Victoria’ from Olwen
16 cm
14 cm
All colour the same vivid red at flowering.

We know of at least one other remake in Australia by Neville Ryan that also seems to be about medium size. If we look at what is to offer in the USA at BirdRock, Rainforest Flora and Tropiflora they are also offering medium sized plant suggesting remakes, or the alleged natural hybrid, rather than offsets from Foster’s original.

This suggests to me that we should delete ‘Richard Oeser’ from the BCR and note the entry for ‘Victoria’ that several remakes have been done where the only difference seems to be size ranging from 13 cm to 30cm diameter, and under the current ICNCP rules they can all share the same cultivar name.

Tillandsia Victoria

Mulford B. Foster in Brom Soc Bull 6(1):10. 1956
Margaret Patterson*, 30/10/10.
Pam Koide.

Updated 26/12/10