Caladiums - Pink Swords, Dark Chocolate and Licorice!

By LariAnn Garner (LariAnn) on May 4, 2011

For me, an open aroid inflorescence is an invitation to hybridizing, and none more so than Caladium blooms. This is because of the possibility of new and exciting color combinations as well as plant habits and leaf shapes. So with my first work in crossing Thai and Western Caladiums under my belt, I've forged ahead with newer, even bolder attempts. . .

The Lost Berries

The year 2011 promises to be a most exciting year for Caladium hybrids at Aroidia. But, before I move on to what I've been up to in 2011, I have to revisit the work I did in 2010 with the Thai and Western Caladiums in order to make a point.

Thai-Western hybrid seedlings

In a previous article on Caladium hybridization, I pointed out how, when one is hybridizing Caladiums, one must be very careful to protect the developing berries. This is so that, when they ripen, they are not lost to ants or the elements before they can be harvested. Sadly, in the case of one of my prized 2010 Thai-Western Caladium crosses, I failed to heed my own advice. You see, one day when I thought the berries had not yet ripened, a visit to check them resulted in distress that they were nearly all gone! The berries had fallen off and had been carried away by ants (presumably). I did manage to collect a few left over in the pod, but from them was able to retrieve only a single seed! Soon arose the idea that, perhaps, a berry or two might have rotted on the groundcloth beneath the bench where the plant was, and that a seed or two might have germinated there as well. The environment was right, being very moist all the time, and in plenty of shade. I scraped up a group of tiny seedlings, too small to be sure if any of them were actually Caladiums, placed them in a small pot and hoped for the best.Pink Sword Thai Caladium

Well, the final results were that almost all of the seedlings were of the wild weedy Pilea, but a single one did turn out to be a Caladium seedling (see the two seedlings in the photo above, right)! So out of my previous distress has come two saved seedlings from that cross of Caladium 'Red Flash' and the Thai Caladium 'Pink Sword' (see photo, left).

A Black Plague

That berry fiasco wasn't the only problem that surfaced in 2010, either. Several crosses using the "Black Thai" Caladium were successful, and the seeds germinated, yielding many little hybrid Caladium seedlings. But alas, they were all lost to damping-off fungus or some other malevolent pestilence, leaving nothing but empty seedling containers. So consolation had to come from the results of my first successful Thai-Western hybridization, which are still growing well and becoming more distinct and exciting as they mature. That is, until this Spring, 2011, when the possibility of crossing the Thai Caladiums "Dark Chocolate", "Black" and "Jungle Rain" with a wide variety of Western Caladium varieties became reality!

2011: Dark Chocolate, Licorice and (Jungle) Rain!

Dark Chocolate Thai Caladium

Considering that two of my favorite confections are named here, imagine how delighted I was to see that the Thai Caladium I call "Dark Chocolate" was throwing an inflorescence just in time for multiple crosses with Western Caladiums! As you can see from the photo at right, both the leaves and the inflorescence are dark chocolate in color, and the leaf has a velvety sheen to boot. The pollen is creamy in color, though, as is the spadix. You can see that the inflorescence was thrown after just one leaf had emerged, which is not unusual even for some of the Western Caladiums. For me, so long as an inflorescence appears, one leaf is just fine for now.

As for the Licorice, well, I'm referring to the Black Thai Caladium which, when the leaves are just emerging, is so dark as to be like licorice candy in color, although matte and not shiny. Their blooms should mature in time to catch the final wave of Western Caladium inflorescences.

The story of the Thai Caladium, "Jungle Rain" is that not only was it the first Thai Caladium that I crossed successfully with a Western Caladium, but also one of the resulting seedlings has grown enough to throw a bloom. It produced abundant pollen so I couldn't resist using it for additional Western blending. This means that my first Thai-Western cross is now into a second generation of cross-cultural unification.

More to Come

At this early stage, some of the berries are just beginning to swell, while others are too new to determine if the cross even worked. As of May 3, 2011, the Black Thai blooms are not even mature yet, much less ready to hybridize with. However, one fact is guaranteed: the fact that I will have a lot of new Caladiums to grow out this Summer. Since this cross-cultural Caladium adventure is a work in progress, watch for edits and additions to this article as new information and pictures become available.

Updates

As of May 16, 2011, I have verified berry set using Thai Caladium "Dark Chocolate" pollen on three Western-type Caladiums, including one resulting from my own work. I've already harvested berries from several Thai Caladium "Jungle Rain" crosses, and inflorescences on three other Thai Caladiums are either receiving Western pollen or are providing pollen for crosses with Western Caladiums. So, this work is expanding rapidly!

Related articles:
araceae, aroids, Caladium, Caladiums, crossing, genetics, hybridizing, hybrids, Thai Caladiums, Thailand

About LariAnn Garner
LariAnn Garner is the founder and Research Director at Aroidia Research. LariAnn is amply qualified for the position, having a Bachelor of Science in Botany, and a Masters Degree in Plant Physiology from the University of Florida. After her college education, she spent a number of years working at several nurseries to gain practical experience before embarking on her own research efforts. One of these nurseries was Bamboo Nursery in the Orlando, Florida area, where she observed and learned about the Philodendron hybridization work of Bob McColley. To learn more about LariAnn's work, visit http://aroidiaresearch.org.

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