Two New Stars in the sky of Saxifrages
by Karel Lang
Saxifraga x quagrata - a new binomial: hybrid of S. quadrifaria and S. x grata 'Gratoides'.
I suppose that every hybridiser who decides "to create" a new cultivar, has some definite reason or concrete idea which he would wish to achieve. My idea, which I have tried to follow, has proceeded from the fact that there is so far no Saxifraga cultivar of the Porphyrion section from the Sino-Himalayan region, with stemless yellow flowers. In fact they grow in nature in mountain localities and were described by Harry Smith (1958), but it was not possible to cultivate them, for example S. sherriffii, and neither repeated import of these plants was successful.
I would like to believe that I have achieved this goal thanks to suitable selection of the mother plant which is the botanical species S. quadrifaria (originally from Mr Duncan Lowe in 1981, collected by Dr G F Smith 1976, 1977, 1978 in Central Nepal in the locality of Barun Khola (further see R Horny, K Webr)). I have crossed S.quadrifaria with S x grata 'Gratoides' (from F Sundermann, 1968, as his own cultivar).
The first parent is white, the second is deep yellow. Seeds which were
obtained from the strictly isolated mother plant, were germinated in January 1991. After
careful selection from 30 seedlings, I have chosen two plants for description and for
introduction to cultivation. After long consideration, for my two partly identical plants,
I have chosen names which are a bit unusual. The names selected are of twin stars - the
most brilliant twin stars. The large size of the first one and the small size of the other
is symptomatic for my two new cultivars. At first sight a keen observer will immediately
realise that S. 'Slrius Alfa' has two remarkable and characteristic features -
neither rosettes or cushions are either symmetrical or well arranged. Rosettes are
multiplied too quickly and create overpressed formations of short shoots, in most cases
flowering rosettes with quite chaotically alternating formations of leaves of different
lengths, side by side with a few young, newly created rosettes. At the beginning they are
decorated by acauline buds of green-red-purple which reminds one of the echinoderm
starfish. The formation of leaves are just the opposite of that we know from S.
quadrifaria, which has opposite leaves very regularly formed in cross lines - one line
above the other. New cushions of S. 'Sirius Alfa' quickly grow and enlarge and the
single flowers on the top persist an unusually long time. The colour of the flower is
light yellow to slightly greenish.
No plant of S. 'Sirius Beta' has so far been acclimatised for growing 'outside through the year. The main reason is the fact that the time of flowering of this plant is too early. In the cold alpine house, in mild winters, it flowers from the middle of February. Protection against frosts is necessary. Alkaline elements in the soil are well accepted by these plants. Anyhow these two newly described cultivars will be plants for connoisseurs - for those who will give them special care.
Saxifraga x quagrata LANG, hybrida nova
S. quadrifaria ENGLER & IRMSCHER 1919 x S. aretioides LAPEYROUSE 1801 x S. ferdinandi-coburgi KELLERER & SONDERMANN 1901 = S. x quagrata hybr. nova LANG, 1992
Caespitull leviter convexi, rosulae apertae, leniter obtuse spinosae, folia lanceolate usque lanceolato-elongata, flores sessiles, lutei. A S. quadrifaria rosulls cum follis alternantibus, floribus flavis, pentameris differt et a S x grata floribus sessilibus, solitariis et palide luteis differt.
Typus: LANG, 1992 PR.
Cultivars: 'Sirius Alfa', 'Sirius Beta'
Cushions (small tufts) are slightly domed levitated, rosettes opened, slightly bluntly pointed, leaves are lanceolate to elongated lanceolate, flowers sessile, yellow. From S. quadrifaria it differs by rosettes with alternate leaves and yellow flowers. From S. x grata it differs by sessile solitary flowers which are light yellow.
S. 'Sirius Alfa'
Cushions 5 to 8 cm. diameter, at first dense and hard, later on domed and not so compact, enlarging into irregular formed rosettes which soon further multiply into formations of unusual shape. New shoots are short. Rosettes open, bluntly ponted, 6 to 8 mm. diameter. Rosette leaves 4.5 to 5mm by 1.8 to 2.3 mm, elongated lanceolate, straight, lower half pilose (softly hairy), the top of the leaf slightly convex, bent, slightly pointed, with one less visible pore in the narrow top of the leaf and six more secreting hydathode pores on light green, upper surface of the lime encrusted leaf. Flower stem is absent: sessile flowers. Inflorescence single. Flower 8 to 9 mm. diameter, deeply cupshaped and later on opening flat. Corolla: petals 4.2 to 5 mm. x 5.2 to 6 mm., cuneate obovate (inversely egg-shaped), smooth edged up to irregularly dentate, wavy with oblong grooves, overlapping, later wellspaced, light yellow with greenish shade to the basal part, remarkably long persisting. Seed capsule dull green. Calyx: sepals prolonged, pressed down on sides with glandular hairs, glabrous near the top with one pore on underside, oblong, centre light green, entire margin reddish-purple. Nectary ring ochre-yellow. Style short. Stigma light green. Stamens green. Anthers kidney-shaped, basal parts reddish, waxy yellow on top. Time of flowering: March (in cold glass house).
S. 'Sirius Beta'
Cushions 3 to 4 cm. diameter, not much domed, very slow to enlarge, dense but irregular, at the beginning fragile, later on hard. Shoots short. Rosettes open, 5 to 6 mm. diameter, blunt, not pointed. Rosette leaves 3 to 4.5 mm by 1.2 to 1.8 mm., ovate lanceolate, nearly straight, flat up to the slightly convex bent end, bluntly pointed from the base, transparent margin, roughly ciliated, light green with clearly visibly pore at top of leaf on the narrowly cut tip and 6 more pores. Stem is absent to start with, later occasional, only very thin and short, 0.5cm. Inflorescence single. The flower is round, cup shaped, later on nearly flat - opening up to 8 to 10 mm. diameter. Corolla: petals broadly obovate, very much overlapped, smooth edged, with slightly trite margin, on the top partly domed, sometimes doubled (5 to 8 petals), deep yellow with partly greenish shade, surface slightly wavy, clearly seen branched veins, 6mm. by 6mm., persisting for a long time. Calyx: sepals are elongated, pressed down, green, only slightly glandular. Style short. Stigma colourless. Nectary ring yellowish. Stamens light green. Anthers kidney-shaped, warm yellow.
Time of flowering: in cold alpine house it flowers in mild winters by the middle of February.
Drawings by Eva Handlikova