Thursday, December 19, 2013

What is the most important improvement in Streptocarpus?

Streptocarpus 'Azur Giant'
Story # 124, Part II,

            What is the most important improvement needed for Streptocarpus to make it a standard commercial crop?

            The last story concluded that Streptocarpus are just not tough enough.  What improvements need to be made?

            I view Streptocarpus to be in the same stage of development as African Violets were 60 years ago.  Why is African Violet the top selling flowering houseplant in the World?

            Step 1.  Hobbyist collected and traded the first violets.  Hobbyists hybridized new varieties and specialized small greenhouses started producing them.

            Step 2.  Someone championed the crop and invested in massive hybridizing and selection projects to improve the major faults.  Holtkamp’s Greenhouses toughened them up with hang-on-tight flowers and less breakable leaves.

            Step 3.  The champion (Holtkamp) mastered production techniques such that the quality went up and the price went down.  Distribution put beautiful flowering African Violets everywhere.

            Streptocarpus is at stage 1.  There are approximately 1,000 named varieties but nobody but hobbyists know about them.  Their main distinctive characteristic is flower color and size.

            All the other variable inherited traits are riding along without any critical culling.  We know what some of them are:

A.     Heat tolerance.
B.    Hang-on-tight flowers.
C.     Leaf length.
D.    Flush versus continuous flowering
E.     Rosette leaf pattern versus non-symmetrical
F.     Bud count
G.    Day neutral versus seasonal flowering.

It’s hard to say which weakness is the most in need of improvement but commercial growers will be cautious until the crop is more fool-proof.

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