Saturday, November 1, 2008

More adenium

The huge number of seedlings raised all over the world led to selection of elite clones. Hybridizing between these selections was started in USA, Thailand, Taiwan and India. The story of Adenium breeding in USA is well documented else where.

In Asia breeding and selection efforts were probably most intense in Thailand, where the "bubble" economy meant crazy prices for anything new. The Thai growers imported the best material from USA and Taiwan and worked out a very efficient system of propagation by grafting on seedling Adenium rootstock.

Things cooled down greatly in Thailand after 1997, when the economy collapsed and prices were more down to earth.

Breeding and selection, however, continued in Taiwan, partly because a stronger economy could sustain high prices for new hybrids and partly due to their access to the Chinese mainland market.

From the beginning, three "species" were involved in the breeding- Adenium obesum, A. somalense var. somalense and A. swazicum. Pure white clones and variegates were found and propagated. The Thai's propagated almost anything new including a lot of very mediocre material. Taiwan, all along, concentrated on reds (the Chinese consider both, the Adenium as well as the color red as lucky) since that's where the money was. The newest and best reds still come from Taiwan.

More recently, the introduction of Adenium somalense var. crispum has added considerable variation to flower color, patterns and form as well as added a certain degree of compactness to its hybrids. Current selections tend to be small flowered and of poor form but that should change. Further crosses using A. s. var. crispum holds tremendous promise for the future.

What lies in the future? There is a lot of new material including some second and third generation crosses using the older A. obesum and A. swazicum hybrids. The discovery of two distinct genetic dwarf lines of A. obesum may lead to a range of ultra compact hybrids.

The current worldwide interest in Adeniums augers well for further efforts with breeding and selection- unless there is money to be made, most growers will stop the breeding effort.

The future for serious breeding probably lies in the warmer regions, especially those in Asia. Our heat and cheap labor allow us to raise thousands of plants, which would be impossibly expensive under the heated greenhouse and labor conditions in the West.

I feel the market for hybrid Adeniums is large if quality material can be supplied and the customers are successful with the plants. Currently most material is produced in Thailand but the range of varieties is limited to the easiest and fastest growing hybrids rather than the best. Lack of sanitary propagation practices mean widespread viral infection.

In Europe & USA, Adeniums are just entering what could be called mainstream floriculture. A lot of work needs to be done before they will be routinely sold by regular nurseries and bought by non-collectors, though I hear that Wal Mart does stock them in their stores. Most of these plants are seedlings and will never deliver the results that selected Adenium grafted plants can. Streamlining of production and selection of the right cultivars with Plant Variety protection is necessary before this is possible but we are already moving in this direction.

The market is not only USA and Europe but also Asia- for many cultures, the Adenium is a "lucky" plant. In warm and hot regions, Adeniums, grown to potential, can rival Azaleas in beauty and impact of flowering with much more character to the plant form.

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