Saturday, January 27, 2007

Variegated African Violets

Bob Green calls variegated African violets "peacocks of the violet world" because of their "plumage" or leaves they possess, making them stand out from others with green foliage.

Variegated foliage was discovered by Mrs. Tommie Louise Oden when she ordered leaves of White Pride from Clyde Rollof. It was a white double plant, but when she planted the leaves, she discovered different colored leaves. She grew them through nine generations, and they came "true". Up until that time variegated plants were unstable.


Tommie Lou: A simple feathered edge on individual leaves to a much heavier crown variegation fading down gradually to the feathered edge on the outer leaves. The original Tommy Lou only vaguely resembles most of the modern hybrids with outside-perimeter variegation.

Crown: The center leaves are often totally variegated, then as the leaves mature and grow out and away from the crown, they gradually gain green coloration in a sprinkling effect. The heart of the leaf remains initially variegated, and the green gradually radiates into this variegation until, as a large mature leaf, only a stippling edge of variegation remains, along, with a small heart sometimes.

Mosaic: The variegation appears as uniform stippling or marbling covering the entire leaf surface, and the leaf is never without variegation even though it may be faint at times. There are very few of this type since it were introduced many years ago. They are very stable and not affected by temperature change or high nitrogen fertilizer. This "mosaic pattern covers the whole leaf and is a serious defection or mutation and very few of them reach maturity. These plantlets are puny or hard to grow. There are very few good show plants, both Emperor and Lillian Jarrett have proved to be real winners.

Other Variegation: The AVSA registration form for new hybrids lists the following items to check under leaf description: "If variegated-type of variegation ___Crown___Mosaic___Other. The "other" apparently includes all forms of the Tommy Lou. There is also a line to denote the color of the variegation. I think many hybridizers now would tend just to call a plant variegated unless it was a crown or mosaic.

Tommie Loue type variegation is more stable under a wider range of conditions than crown variegation. Those varieties with crown variegation can loose almost all variegation in the summer heat. However, the new leaves will start variegating again when cool weather returns. Both crown variegtes and the Tommie Loue types will do better if you place them closer to the floor (for example, the lowest shelves of your light stands) where the temperture is cooler, since heat naturally rises. The mosaic variegates are not affected by temperture and heat, and their variegation will remain constant.

If a plant shows no sign of variegation in African violet shows, the judges must reduce the plant to a red ribbon, and then continue judging it using the AVSA scale of points.

Thanks to Sharon Johnson for the article and pictures!!!

Note: Excerpts taken from: Variegted African violets by Denis Croteau, AVM, July-Aug 1988, Peacocks of the Violet World by Bob Green, AVM, Nov. 1985 , Pauline Barthlomew's Growing to Show and Picture of Bunny Wabbit from

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Hybridizing from Start to Finish! part 2

Hybridizing - Session II: Keeping Things Straight. Usually, I do not make so many crosses with the same type blossoms. But, as mentioned before, this is a custom order from Lynne. So hopefully one of these crosses will produce the plant she wants. I also decided to include another plant because it has good foliage and blossoms.

Now I have five plants that will hopefully be forming seed pods. If all goes as planned, Rebel’s Scotty will have at least eight pods. There should be at least two each on Heinz Sentimental, Private Dancer, Sora School Time­ and The Night Life. So, this all needs to be kept straight and it is best to keep the information on the plant itself. Keeping notes is great, but keeping track of the note is not always easy.

Since the mother plant will have four different crosses going, each cross will be represented by a different color yarn. After the cross is made, I write down the information and then loosely tie the yarn on that bloom stem.

A stake can also be inserted in the pot right next to the stem with the information written on it. That is the procedure I use when the cross is simply one paternal plant In this case, each of the paternal plants has a stake with information, plus the color of yarn is noted on the stake. Be sure to put the stake right next to the bloom stem. That way, when you’re disbudding, you will know to be careful and not remove your seed pods. One time, after a two week vacation, I asked my hubby to help me remove blossom stems. However, I forgot to tell him the stakes had a significance other than just plant names. So much for those seed pods, but I learned.

Okay, so now we are organized. The next step will be the actual pollination process.

Thanks to Barb Werness for the continuing articles about hybridizing!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hybridizing From Start to Finish! part 1

We have something very interesting for you that's going to start TODAY! Barb Werness is going to lead us through the hybridizing process one step at a time. From the selection of our parent plants to the pollination of the flowers, then to the ripening of the seed pod and the sowing and growing of the baby hybrids. We are going to have it all - in text and pictures! Be sure to keep checking back as the weeks go by to see how the "seeds" are coming along. Also, please comment and post questions for Barb or other readers. We all learn from from each other!

Hybridizing - Session 1: Let’s do a hybridizing project. At each step of the process, I will submit some pictures, explanations and rational for what is happening. Now my approach to hybridizing has never been scientific. There are dominant and recessive genes which affect color, shape, marking, etc. I pay no attention to any of that. Basically, my approach to hybridizing is the “gee, what if” method. Some crosses have resulted in absolutely nothing and some have been very fruitful. I was going gung-ho with hybridizing several years ago and then between working full time, bad knees and most importantly the two grandbabies, plants were put on a back burner. Well, now I’ve started again and have several seed pods to be sown, plus a few more crosses in mind.

My daughter, Lynne has been after me for a few years to name a new African violet after her. But I have been waiting for the “perfect” plant and blossom. Finally, one day she advised me of what she wanted the plant to look like. It was to be large with great variegation and a big, bold, dark blossom. Sure, okay, no problem, just a snap of the fingers. So I looked over what was in my plant room and decided which ones to cross.

Here are the plants chosen:

Rebel’s Scotty - symmetrical, large, great variegation, fairly large dark pink blossoms

Heinz Sentimental - symmetrical, nice variegation, dark red blossoms

Private Dancer - symmetrical, large, great variegation, dark blue blossoms

Sora School Time­ - okay symmetry, okay variegation, large deep blue white edged blossoms

The problem with a double blossom is that often it is hard to get a good pistil for pollination. On some doubles the pistil is nonexistent or deformed. But this is part of the challenge. There would be three father plants, Heinz Sentimental, Private Dancer and Sora School Time. I will probably also reverse the process and use Rebel’s Scotty as the father plant and the other three as mothers. Usually, I try to have the mother plant be the one with the symmetry and variegation desired; but if there is not a good pistil, then reverse order will be necessary. Although Sora School Time is not the most impressive plant, the blossoms are gorgeous.

So that’s the end of Session 1. The parent plants are chosen. Next will be the pollination process.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Usambaras Mountains

Our elephant friend is thinking fondly of something that reminds him of his original home. Many of the "species violets" are currently found growing in the east part of Africa in the Usambaras Mountains of Tanzania. Is this their original, ancestral home?

Because so many of the species violets are found and collected in the Usambaras' this led many to conclude that this must be where violets originated.

A majority of the current hybrid violets that we grow get their genetics from one of these species called Saintpaulia ionantha. It has long been thought that ionantha was the "ancestral" violet that the rest of the species have evolved from. Ionantha is found primarily in the Usambaras Mountains too. But, recent studies using ribosomal DNA evidence have come up with some surprising results.

It's likely that Saintpaulia goetzeana is the plant that is the true ancestor of the African violet. Its genetics are the most closely related to the subgenus Streptocarpella, and many of it's morphological characteristics, including the elongated internodes between small opposite leaves and the blue or blue/white flowers lead to that conclusion.

The S. goetzeana is found in the Uluguru Mountains which are further south in Africa. This is likely where violets actually originated, moving north into new niches where we find many of the species today. Eleven of the species that are found in the Usambaras', including ionantha, velutina, difficilis and grandifolia are exactly the same in ribosomal DNA according to a study by Moller and Cronk. Because the genetics are so similar it can be concluded that they are more "recent" species that are still in the process of differentiating themselves. They are perhaps only 10,000 years old.