Detective notes from Derek Butcher.
Nidularium ‘Karamea Morobe’ by Derek Butcher.
Trying to identify cultivars that were created many years ago can be fun if you keep your sense of humour.
This saga started in 1940 or thereabouts when Morobe in Belgium crossed Nidularium innocentii with N. fulgens. We know that the ‘innocentii’ at that time had reddish leaves and must not be confused with the current concept that N. innocentii can have either reddish or totally green leaves.
It was not until after World War II in 1946 that Dutrie described the plant as “frankly superior to ‘Chantrieri’ -- numerous leaves, strong without stiffness, well displayed -- a beautiful bright brown colour above, lustrous dark brown below – at bloom time , the centre becomes scarlet over a diameter of 25cm. Notable in every respect.’
That was how the Europeans saw this plant. There is one slight problem in that I do not have the original article in French and the use of the colour ‘brown’ worries me a little!
In the Cultivar Register 1998 we also read the following description by Jungle Gardens in Florida. No date, but I assume from the 1970’s. ‘A vigorous plant with the underside of the leaves a beautiful purplish maroon – in flower the central rosette is a long lasting bright cerise.’ I don’t know about you but these sound like different plants!
By the way, I am trying contacts in Belgium to see if we can find out from old catalogues what ‘Madame Robert Morobe’ should look like.
In the 1970’s seed called Nidularium ‘Madame Robert Morobe’ was on the BSI seed list. - I know because I got some. At that time, we ALL believed that the Americans knew everything about Bromeliads. I have since found out that the Americans do not know all and in fact are probably less interested in correct names than we Antipodeans! Also we now know that you just cannot grow seed from a hybrid and call the plants the same name. Seed from hybrids does funny things like giving you a percentage of the original parents! So we had plants being grown in Australia called ‘Madame Robert Morobe’ which were not ‘Madame Robert Morobe’!
Now to the New Zealand connection. In the 1980’s Maureen Green imported a Nidularium ‘Madame Robert Morobe’ from Australia. She knows who from but we are having problems getting the person to remember! In any event in those days Maureen believed in the Aussies even though she kept looking at her plant and scratching her head. Referring to the 1998 Cultivar Register didn’t help much either. Her plant had totally green leaves.
You must know that Gerry Stansfield and I have great ‘discussions’ about cultivar identity and when we got Birgit Rhode involved things really got moving about this Green ‘Madame Robert Morobe’.
Maureen decided that giving the name ‘Karamea Morobe’ to her green leaved plant was the best solution. If you have not realised this, if you see ‘Karamea’ on a cultivar you will know it comes from the Green stable! So if you did get a green leaved ‘Madame Robert Morobe’ in the last 20 years please change your label!
The jury is still out as to what the true ‘Madame Robert Morobe’ should look like!