Hellebores 'Royal Heritage' strain sterile?

GabyC(z5 QC, Canada)July 4, 2002

Amongst the four Hellebores plants that flowered for me for the first time this year was one plant from the 'Royal Heritage' strain.

While I was successful with hand pollinating between the three plants of the 'Sunshine' strain, the 'Royal Heritage' one didn't seem to work as either parent. First I found, that the anthers never got 'fluffy' to release pollen, but fell off before ever reaching that point.

Then I tried to use it as the mother plant and handpollinated with pollen from one of the 'Sunshine' strain plants. But while all my other handpollinations (each of them carried out three times on three consecutive days as described in the Rice / Strangman book) were successful, not a single seedpod developed on the 'Royal Heritage' plant.

Obviously no selfpollination or natural pollination had occured either.

Eventhough I bought my plant from Gardenimport I believe, that the strain originates from Wayside Gardens, where they obviously grow a lot of them.

Does anybody have suggestions on why this happened? Has any of you gotten seed from a 'Royal Heritage' plant?

Is it possible, that 'Royal Heritage' and 'Sunshine' strain don't hybridize? And why didn't my plant produce viable pollen?

It is a nice green / pinkish picotee and I would have loved to cross it with my dark purple 'Sunshine' plant.

Any comments would be very appreciated!

Happy gardening,

Gaby

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goswimmin(7b)

I bought a plant from Picadilly Farms in Georgia. It is a dark Orientalis. It has flowered lst year and this year but drops its flowers within a few weeks and no seeds. I was very disappointed.
I have no idea with yours why you didn't get seeds. It is sad.
Mary from Gainesville, GA

    Bookmark   July 5, 2002 at 9:18PM
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kellied

I have had my Royal Heritage strain planted for about four years. It is huge, flowers profusely, has pollinators in the area and has never made seed pods or had progeny. My best guess is that it is a mule. (sterile) Pollenpusher may know more, however.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2002 at 9:22AM
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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

I've one of the Royal Heritage strain. It has bloomed twice for me now and no seeds either. However, another two hellebores (not Royal Heritage) planted since, have both bore seed. I think the evidence may be that this group is somehow sterile.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2002 at 7:44PM
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blueschiz(6b PA)

I know this is an old thread, but since no one has answered the question... The Royal Heritage strain is grown from seed, so it can't be all sterile, though since they are hybrids of multiple species it is likely that there may be some sterile crosses that result. It originated in England as a collection and selection was continued by John Elsley, then of Wayside Gardens.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2003 at 2:24PM
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razorback33(z7)

My Royal Heritage Strain plants have produced viable seed every year, so to answer your question; they are not all sterile. The only way to insure clones that are replicas of the mother plant, however, is by division. Even close pollination will not necessarily produce a like colored flower, as these are H. x hybridus, a result of many crosses to improve flower color, bloom size and length of flowering time. I am always excited when a seedling blooms, anticipating a rare off-spring. Have found pure whites from spotted pinks, picotees, 6 and 7 sepalled flowers, both spotted and pure colors, near black from dark purples and am looking forward to a rare double purple to cross with 'Mrs. Betty Ranicar'!
Rb

    Bookmark   October 1, 2003 at 12:49AM
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woadwoman(z7 Oregon)

I'm glad I found this among the past threads, because I've wondered about this and would appreciate some advice.

I got three 'Royal Heritage' strain hellebores in 1998. They are sturdy plants, and produce abundant, lovely flowers. The most beautiful is a soft pink, but year after year, Big Pink produces almost no seed. Its pollen looks good under the microscope and the carpals and ovaries, full of unfertilized seeds, appear normal.

At first, I thought Big Pink might be more fertile as it matured and had more carbohydrate reserves to put into seed production. However, while all the hellebores around it, including its 'Royal Heritage' kin, produce abundant and viable seed each year, the majority of carpals and seeds on Big Pink do not develop, and I have never had more than a dozen seeds from it in a year.

Hearing that others have 'Royal Heritage' hellebores that are sterile or sub-fertile suggests to me that inbreeding in the strain has produced some individuals that are not good reproducers.

Now here's my question. Because Big Pink has such good qualities and is a sturdy plant, I've used it as the mother plant for many of my crosses and I've pollinated many other plants with it. Obviously, it's been an unsatisfactory mother plant, and it doesn't seem to have been a good pollen parent.

HOWEVER, out of the few seeds that I have gotten and grown from Big Pink as a mother plant, I've gotten my most attractive cross, which I've nicknamed Valentine, as it first bloomed on Valentine's Day and is a sweet pink. Valentine is a good seed producer and a sturdy plant, and I have been using it heavily in making crosses.

Now that I know Valentine's mother is all but sterile, do you think I should eliminate Valentine from my breeding program? Valentine's offspring have not reached flowering maturity yet, but do you think it's likely that the offspring may carry a genetic problem that makes it less likely that they will mature seed?

I have selfed Valentine, so as those seedlings mature, genetic problems should become apparent, so in a number of years I'll have some answers. But do you think I should not use Valentine in crosses this year? Or do you think Valentine might be just fine genetically, since it did manage to be "born" and reproduce?

Best,
Elizabeth

    Bookmark   January 21, 2004 at 4:34PM
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DarkLadySlipper(z5)

Hi Elizbeth,
I am no expert on hybridizing or raising Hellebores from seed, but if this an attractive plant and is producing well, I would continue using it until you notice a regular abnormality happening among the progeny.
Bright blessings,
Dory

    Bookmark   January 24, 2004 at 12:06PM
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woadwoman(z7 Oregon)

Dear Dory,
Thank you for your good advice. I think I will go on using it, both for the reasons you suggested, and because sometimes anomalies give us insight into what is going on with a particular kind of plant.
Thanks for the blessings!
Best,
Elizabeth

    Bookmark   January 25, 2004 at 12:27PM
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jgwoodard(USDA z7 TN)

Fascinating. The only Royal heritage hybridus I have appears sterile.... about 4 years now. It is fairly unremarkable anyway, so I don't care to use it for crossing and will likely dispose of it eventually....it does seem interesting how many examples have been posted here however specifically referring to Royal heritage.
I also had two plants this year (of other provenance) that produced no noticeable female reproductive parts...though they each flowered extremely early and it was their first year to do so. So, I don't know yet if they are genetically incomplete or simply "abnormal-for-now".
I would agree with Dory that assuming you have the space, etc... there is no reason to resist Valentine as a parent. By the way, wlecome to gardenweb Elizabeth; I've enjoyed your recent posts. I see you have already met Johan..should be fun. :)
Joseph

    Bookmark   January 29, 2004 at 1:53PM
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woadwoman(z7 Oregon)

Thanks for the welcome, Joseph, and for the link you sent me. I appreciate your thoughtfulness. I saw the photos of the two "first-timers" you posted. Wow! The white flower with the undulant petals is just gorgeous. And you certainly have a pronounced picotee on the other. Markedly different flower shapes. Are these from seed from your plants?

I'll take your advice on keeping Valentine in the breeding pool. I'm going to watch her and her mother very closely to see if there are any structural abnormalities that might interfere with reproduction.

Thanks.

Best,
Elizabeth

    Bookmark   January 30, 2004 at 1:23PM
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woadwoman(z7 Oregon)

Over the weekend, I checked on a group of 'Royal Heritage' strain hellebores in one of the parks in town. Twelve mature plants with flowers were planted in a "naturalized" area in the late winter of 1997, so that's seven years ago. Our Parks horticulturist told me that seedlings have never been weeded out. The companion plant is epimedium. Soil and light conditions are good. No pre-emergent herbicide, nor any other herbicide, has ever been used in this area.

The original twelve hellebores are still there, along with six offspring that appear to be in a two-to-three-year age cohort. Only one of the offspring looks as if it will have flowers this year. There were also six seedlings that have recently germinated.

After seven years, I would expect to see a nice little colony of hellebores with lots of seedlings. Of course, there could be lots of factors that account for the lack of offspring beside a reproductive problem with the parent plants. But I will watch this group over the next few months and see if anything seems abnormal about the plants' reproductive structures, and if they set seed.

Elizabeth

    Bookmark   February 3, 2004 at 2:13PM
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