Years ago Ralph Moore urged me to take home a plant of his 1999 Hybrid Bracteata 'Out of Yesteryear' for breeding purposes. He felt it offered the greatest potential for hybridizing what had been till that point a rather difficult species to work with. (You can obtain hybrids from R. bracteata but the offspring are often weak, infertile, or die before reaching flowering size, making further hybridizing difficult or impossible.) Ralph was right, of course; 'Out of Yesteryear' proved a valuable parent in the work I was doing in the early 2000s. However.....
'Out of Yesteryear' has its limitations. For me, the biggest obstacle was its tendency to wash most of the color out of its progeny. You could cross it with the darkest yellows, the richest oranges and reds and end up with pale buttery yellows, pinks and the occasional peachy "art shade". Oh, and white. Lots and lots of white. I quickly began to focus on working with the most strongly pigmented offspring, moving away from 'Out of Yesteryear' as quickly as possible. One such seedling was 174-02-17, which I have spoken of several times. (Click the link to see the posts mentioning it) Still, I wished there was a true RED Bracteata hybrid to work with. So, periodically I have gone back to 'Muriel', Moore's original hybrid, to poke around in its gene pool in search of better color.
Enter stage left: 192-09-04. The seedling pictured here is a cross of ('Penny Ante' X 'Tradescant') and 'Muriel'. The seedling used as seed parent is one I find I often go to to search for color in difficult situations. While the plant itself is very stiffly upright in the manner of many Hybrid Teas, it produces astonishing panicles of up to 40 blooms and does not exceed six feet in height. It will take pollen from absolutely anything and most all seeds germinate, so it has become a kind of "go to guy" in my arsenal of breeders.
So, in May of 2009 I dash a bit of 'Muriel' pollen on a few blooms of it and voila! We have the seedling pictured above. I can't provide a lot of data about the plant yet, as it made only minimal growth in year one: it is still only 14" tall and three branches. It bloomed twice in year one, which suggests it will be free blooming. It appears to have no pistils/stigmas, so it is likely to function as a pollen parent only, assuming there is any fertility there at all. (I have seen little evidence of stamens yet either, but won't rule out the possibility until it is older) Only time and trial will tell. Still, I am hopeful. It has remarkably good coloring for a 'Muriel' hybrid; perhaps I tapped in to the 'Guinee' red in its background when mating it with my "Penny-trad".
Side note: sowing the 2010 crop of seed today, hoping to finish up the task. (I started two days ago) I can't believe its THAT time already! Yikes. Have a good weekend, all.