Hybridization History

The habitat of the horticultural significant species Gerbera jamesonii H. Bolus ex Hook f. is restricted to the eastern part of Mpumalanga and the southern part of the Limpopo Province in South Africa. The gerbera was discovered in 1878 near Barberton and is therefore referred to in the English speaking community as the Barberton daisy or the Transvaal daisy.

Jameson probably sent the plant to the Botanical Gardens in Cambridge, England. There the plant was taken over by LYNCH as a culture. From available literature, it can be noted that the Gerbera jamesonii first flowered with TILLET in Norwich and then in Kew Gardens. Certainly it was LYNCH who first prepared the plant for hybridization in Europe. He first crossed the plant with the Gerbera viridifolia. As a result of active hybridization the first so-called florist gerbera were created. To what extent Gerbera viridifolia contributed is not known. These florist gerberas were named after the place of their origin, “”Gerbera cantabrigiensis””.

LYNCH also created the variety Gerbera jamesonii “”Brilliant”” as a cross between a variety from Natal known as “”Sir Michael Forster”” and the Gerbera jamesonii. Although the Gerbera jamesonii hybridization has a long history, there are even today still no satisfactory consistent seeds of this plant. This is as a result of the strong heterozygote of this plant. Already in the past, LNYCH, ADNET and VILMORIN independently from one another confirmed the colour variations of the Gerbera jamesonii growing in the wild.

Those colour hybrids breed by LNYCH apparently, according to reports, produced more seeds than those Gerbera varieties from the French breeding stock of ADNET. In 1891 they received a Certificate 1st Class from the Royal Horticultural Society and in 1904 they were exhibited at the Temple Exhibition in London. The companies Sander in Bruges (Belgium) and Veitch & Sons Chelsea (England) took over the distribution of the seeds and plants.

Harry BolusRichard Irwin Lynch

ADNET on Cap d’Antibes on the French Riviera received a large quantity of plants. LYNCH also gave him seeds and plants. Prior to this ADNET had already begun with the breeding of the Gerbera jamesonii and received pale red and salmon coloured plants from Africa. He was confident of success in his efforts to breed these plants as he assumed that the climate on the Riviera was similar to that of Barberton, i.e. the home of the original gerbera. DIEM, a German senior horticulturist, was working for ADNET and was to a large degree responsible for the hybridization. DIEM’s later successes were so revolutionary that we still today talk about a DIEM variety.

Up until 1909, crossbreeding with over 3000 pollinations of the English hybrids was done by ADNET with the already improved African species. This was well documented by stating both parent plants and their properties. Every crossbreeding had a number. In this manner, up until the spring of 1909, under strict cultivation selection, 25 000 hybrids were selected. At the time, ADNET hoped that seed sustainability would be achieved after several future generations. He emphasised at the same time that the plants varied greatly in both colour and shape.

This characteristic is well known to us up until the present day; it considerably prohibits the cultivation of seed consistency. In 1909, Walter DŽHNHARDT describes ADNET’s newest cultivars in the publication “”Müllers deutscher Gärtnerzeitung”” (Müllers German Gardeners’ Magazine) as flowers in many colour nuances with a diameter of about 13cm and 50-60cm long stems and keeping for up to 6-8 days. According to DIEM, the cutting yield was between 36 and 60 flowers per plant, keeping for about two weeks. In 1906 was the first time that gerbera were propagated from seed that he had germinated himself.

DIEM then became independent and near Bordighera again started growing gerbera. At that time, he was working together with STEINAU in Juan-les-Pins. In Naples SPRENGER tried, unsuccessfully, to cross Gazania with Gerbera. From the world famous company, Vilmorin in France, it is known that they also distributed gerbera seeds. How the gerbera came to Germany is still unknown, however latest in 1893 it was recorded with the company Haage & Schmidt in Erfurt. In 1896 the first plants and in 1898 the first seeds became available for distribution.

Walter DänhardtEugen Hahn

1897 JAENICKE had the opportunity to propagate and breed the gerbera in New York (USA). In the autumn of 1908, a flower called Gerbera jamesonii “”Gigantea”” was introduced onto the market. This flower type had 12cm large scarlet red flowers and the stem was often as long as one meter! This particular flower type apparently flowered very often. It was presented for the first time in 1909 and was awarded the Certificate 1st Class for innovations. At the time, the gerbera always received extreme attention as well as valuable prizes at national and international horticultural exhibitions, so, for example in 1904, in Düsseldorf, in 1904 and 1907 in London in 1909 in Berlin and Paris. Gerbera, next to carnations, were considered as one of the most valuable cut flowers. Most of the first prizes awarded can be seen as recognition for the work involved in the breeding of the flower.

After the First World War, gerbera breeding gradually picked up again. In this connection, available literature often refers to the names LEICHTLIN in Baden-Baden, LÜPKE in Lemgo, LUZ in Fellbach (all in Germany). The gerbera was also being bred by HORNING in Steinheim, MÜNZ in Waiblingen, SCHULZ in Trebbin, de Ridder in Aalsmeer, SANDER in Bruges (Belgium), BAUM in Vevey (Switzerland), MICHAELIS in Geneva (Switzerland) and GUMBLETON in Belgrove (Ireland).

LÜPKE produced a variety with a large flower with wide petals. Through the production sites of Horning, Münz as well as Luz very large Gerbera flowers came onto the market, whereby great value was attached to the flower having fine radials (small petals) with 15-20cm in diameter.

STEINAU was able to show a filled gerbera in 1928. The flower was 12-15cm in diameter, available in almost any colour and resembled, so one said, a Michaelmas daisy (or aster) with long single radials. Generally the flower increased continuously in size and yield through the more or less targeted breeding and selection strategy. The shape of the flower was improved and the colours became more luminous.

In spite of all efforts however, the gerbera remained very variable in shape, colour and yield. Seed sustainability could not be achieved. The gerbera did not find easy access as part of horticultural production. Probably due to this fact, there was almost no literature available on the gerbera until after the Second World War. Only later did one learn of a cross breeding with a red flowering gerbera from Tasmania carried our by Alkemade & Zonen in Nordwijk (Holland). Following this, Europe imported more and more seeds from California and South Africa. The Americans preferred the larger flower types.

In Weihenstephan (Germany) in 1960, PENNINGSFELD as the result of successful selection produced a small flower, high yielding scarlet red clone “”Carmen””. In the years that followed, Goosen, van Staaveren, van Wijk in Holland as well as J. Ahm in Denmark operated successful Gerbera farms. In the meantime, other countries including France and Norway as well as some non-European countries have emerged with well-known Gerbera farms.

Return to the top of Gerbera jamesonii hybridization