|Primulina 'Loki' grown by Karyn Cichocki|
The case for the conservation of Primulina by the distribution of seed.
Since I’ve recently become very interested in Primulina and its development as a commercial crop, there is a need to collect and study all of the Primulina species possible. There are 145 known species and more will be found.
At present the only commercial possibility is to promote Primulina as a small foliage houseplant. Flowering time is one to two years and flower color is limited to blue, yellow, pink and white. For Primulina to become a common flowering plant equivalent to African Violets will require years of dedicated hybridization work. The fastest technique would be to possess all known species and make all the F1 hybrid combinations. Ten different species yield 45 unique F1 hybrids, which may or may not have any value. This is being done at the Gesneriad Conservation Center of China.
The mission of the center is a noble goal of collection and protection of all species that can be found.
But how to best conserve them? Protecting the native land sites is doomed to loss from development progress. The most liberal idealistic plan is to commission dedicated PhD scientists to collect, identify and maintain stock of all of these new plants.
The most conservative plan is to distribute the seed throughout the World to all interested parties, hobbyists, botanical gardens and commercial growers. Species cannot be patented, so there can be no potential gain.
Hoarding plant genetic material seems like the thing to do but distribution is the more likely method of preservation. If a species plant is lost, someone else could be keeping it alive. It may be counter-intuitive but the more rare the plant, the more important it is that it is widely distributed for its preservation.
If Primulina is to follow the path of African Violets, then at some point in the future there will be profit to earn and protect with plant patents.
If a commercial plant business takes on this project, it would cost $100,000 per year to support a full time plant breeder. With Primulinas two year flowering time, a minimum of 10 years would be needed to have any chance of selecting some good flowering plants. This is a million dollar bet, so royalties would be needed to recover the investment.
For sure, no one will bet a million dollars at this point in the development of Primulina. All the work will have to come from dedicated hobbyists on a random occurrence.
The Gesneriad Society should use its influence to obtain all of the Primulina species from the Gesneriad Conservation Center of China. It is the most sensible method of conserving the plants and the only method of creating new hybrids and improving their flowering potential.