70 (March/April 2003)
My Favorite Trailing Scandent
by Johanna Kitson
Back in the fall of 1999, I was introduced to
Begonia U002 not knowing that it had already been around for nearly
20+ years. Since it had a "U" number I thought it was something new. I was
a fairly new begoniac and had just been to my first begonia sales event at
the University of South Florida that Dale Sena had organized as
part of that spring's board meeting. A few weeks later our chapter
volunteered to host the 2000 convention and we made cuttings of this "new"
begonia. Of this pretty trailing begonia, little did I know…..until
Begonia 'U002' had been featured on the Begonian
cover in 1979, written about in 1981, and talked about on‑line in the
yahoo begonia group. It wasn't until 6 months ago that I found out on this
computer group that this wonderful trailing scandent ground cover had been
identified as a natural hybrid.
From what I can glean from talking to people and
rereading different articles, the story begins back in the mid 1970's. I
heard that seed came in from Brazil as U002. I read that a plant of this
U002 was given to Michael Kartuz via Frank Kerin of
Pittsburgh via an orchid collector who knew nothing of its origin. Michael
grew it and offered it in his catalog, however, he doubted that it was a
true species. Patrick Worley saw the plant and in it recognized
characteristics of other plants, specifically, what was then known as
U003 and U009.
In the February 1981 Begonian, Brazilian
species U003 was the cover photo. This unidentified Brazilian
begonia came from the garden of Roberto Burle Marx (landscape
architect in Rio de Janeiro) via Gilbert Daniels. This begonia
species has a dark green leaf with a postulate surface and has a distinct
light green color radiating from the center, edged in red. It also has
tiny white flowers and is now know as Begonia soli-mutata.
The second species, U009, was also on a
Begonian cover later that same year in the month of May. Like B.
soli-mutata, this was from Mr. Marx's garden as well and, therefore,
most likely Brazilian even though there was no exact record of it's
origin. In 1974 Mr. Marx gave the plant to Dr. Gilbert Daniels (past
president of the American Horticultural Society and past director of the
Hunt Botanical Institute). U009 has small felted leaves that are
dark green with light green markings radiating along the middle veins.
Leaves are close together and attached to reddish trailing stems. The
flowers are white and U009 is now known as Begonia thelmae,
named after Thelma O'Reilly. Back in 1976 several ABS members
were visiting Dr. Daniels and his greenhouses in Pittsburgh and were given
cuttings of this trailing begonia.
My question at this point is, after all these years,
has anybody ever found these begonias again in the wild, or was this the
last possible plant that just happened to be in the Marx garden? Do people
ever go back to re-explore an area to try and verify what is still there?
Perhaps someone has been there and would like to do an article on this
aspect of begonia hunting in Brazil?
Meanwhile, this brings us back to B. U002 and its
resemblance to B. U003 and U009. Notice in the pictures how
the three plants resemble one another. Patrick Worley decided to
cross these two species around 1978 and when he did so, came up with many
fairly uniform seedlings that grew up to be just like U002. The FI
seedlings varied slightly in leaf size and height but this is common in
species to species crosses. Byron Martin of Logee's Greenhouses
duplicated this cross and came to the same conclusion. Patrick then named
this cross B. 'Manaus' after the Brazilian city of Manaus.
Begonia U002 seems to like a lot of humidity
around it. I have tried growing it in a hanging basket, but it only gets
leggy for me. One day a small piece of it fell out of it's basket and just
started running along the ground searching for new places to explore. It
now grows right over all the old oak leaves that fall in my flower beds
and over the occasional limestone rock that acts in its way. It has
established itself in several areas of my yard as a compact ground cover
and blooms all year long. So, until it freezes in West Palm Beach, I guess
this little begonia will just keep trailing along!
Above Johanna's photo shows her B. U002
and B. soli-mutata growing side by side and below is her B. themae in a