Sexual Reproduction involves the mixture of male genetic material in the form of pollen with the female genetic material in the ovary of the flower. This results in the production of seeds, each of which has a slightly different mixture of the genetic material of the male and female. The pollen and ovary may be on two different plants which is called cross-pollination or, in the case of self-pollination, both originate on the same plant. The results of both types are called hybrid or seedling hostas.

The parentage or background of hybrid hostas may be identified in several different forms. The amount of information provided depends on the personal knowledge or records kept by the person who "originated" the new cultivar. Here are ways you might see the background of a hybrid hosta represented in catalogs, books, articles or on the AHS registration application.

H. 'Blue Angel' × H. 'Big Daddy' is in the standard format: pod (female) parent × pollen (male) parent. (The symbol between the two is not an X but is a multiplication sign ×.)

This tells us that the seeds came from 'Blue Angel' and the pollen originated from 'Big Daddy' in an example of cross-pollination. To know the ancestry for certain, it would have been a case where the hybridizer gathered the pollen from 'Big Daddy' and physically applied it to the pistil (female part) of a flower of 'Blue Angel'. The plants were labeled somehow to be able to identify them and records were kept.

H. 'Blue Angel' × H. 'Blue Angel' shows an example of a self-pollinated hybrid. The pollen from 'Blue Angel' was collected by a person and physically transferred to the pistil of the same plant. Records were kept to document the transaction.

H. 'Blue Angel' × Unknown represents a case where the hybridizer collected seed from 'Blue Angel' but does not know the source of the pollen. Bees, rather than humans did the pollinating. This is called an open-pollinated hybrid.

1. Unknown × H. 'Blue Angel' is an infrequently encountered scenario. It shows that a hybridizer took pollen from 'Blue Angel' and then applied it to the pistil of an unnamed plant. Here, the pod parent is unknown and the pollen parent is 'Blue Angel'.

2. Unknown - Occasionally, neither the pod or pollen parent have been identified for a cultivar. Perhaps the person harvested some seeds from random plants in their garden or at a horticulture garden. The seeds may have been a gift from someone who lost track of their origin. Either way, these plants are sometimes described as having a certain plant in their "background" as described below.

At times, the name of the specific pod parent, pollen parent or both parents of a new hybrid hosta are not available but some of its ancestors are known. When using so-called "breeder" plants, hybridizers may not name the actual plant being used but they do know its genetic background. These are then cited in the development of the new cultivar and are called a Complex Cross.

This is often similar to telling you that a baby named Jane Doe was born to a woman whose paternal grandparents were Bob Smith married to Barb Sweet and maternal grandparents were Joe Schultz and wife Mary Roberts. The father was the grandson of Bill Ford married to Lynn Wright and Jerry Moore and wife Betty Long. This would be shown as:

[(Mary Roberts × Joe Schultz) × (Barb Sweet × Bob Smith)] × [(Lynn Wright × Bill Ford) × (Betty Long × Jerry Moore)]

What were the names of Jane Doe's parents? Answer: Unknown

The following are some examples of the various ways Complex Crosses are presented to show the genetic background of new hosta cultivars.

1. H. 'Blue Angel' × "RD-42-09" is an example of the use of a "breeder" plant by an individual hybridizer. Technically, it does not have a true cultivar name so it is shown in quotation marks. The hybridizer had a plant developed in his or her hybridizing program which had certain traits desirable for mixing with H. 'Blue Angel'. However, for some reason only known to the hybridizer, "RD-42-09" did not warrant being given a unique cultivar name. It is shown as the pollen parent but, in reality, that parent should be listed as unknown since this hosta does not have an actual cultivar name.

2. (H. 'Blue Angel' × H. 'Big Daddy') × H. 'Amos' is another form of a complex cross. In this example, we know that the pollen (father) parent is 'Amos'. However, we only know the grandparents on the mother's side and do NOT know the name of the pod parent. Technically the parentage of this hosta should read pod parent unknown and pollen parent H. 'Amos'

3. (H. 'Blue Angel' × H. 'Sea Prize') × (H. 'Big Daddy' × H. 'Halcyon') is another complex cross that only identifies the grandparents of the new cultivar but NOT the parents. Technically the parentage of this hosta should read pod parent unknown and pollen parent unknown i.e. Unnamed Seedling × Unnamed Seedling.

4. [(H. 'Blue Angel' × H. 'Sea Prize') × (H. 'Big Daddy' × H. 'Halcyon')] ×
[(H. 'Tot Tot' × H. 'Fortunei') × (H. 'Elegans' × H. 'Invincible')]
  is another complex cross that only identifies the great grandparents of the new cultivar.

The grandparents would be (Unnamed Seedling × Unnamed Seedling) × (Unnamed Seedling × Unnamed Seedling) and the parents of the new cultivar would be Unnamed Seedling × Unnamed Seedling.

Click Here for a list of hybrid hostas that have a Complex Cross listed as one or more of the parent plants.

Asexual Reproduction occurs when a part of the original or mother plant "spontaneously" changes characteristics. In hostas, this generally occurs in a change of the leaf color pattern. One spring in the garden, you find a set of leaves on a green plant that have a yellow marginal variegation. If you carefully cut that part of the plant away, you can grow the new division as a separate plant. This also occurs in the micro-propagation technique called tissue culture. In recent decades, a large percentage of new cultivars of hostas are being discovered during this process. These new plants are called sports and may be further designated as garden sports or tissue culture sports.

Sport Mother Plants - In the vast majority of cases, the plant from which a sport is taken is identified as the mother plant. Sometimes when one is found in a garden situation, the mother plant may be unlabeled or not named but this is not usually the case.

Background - In some cases, the information just says that the cultivar has H. 'Blue Angel', H. 'Sea Prize', H. 'Big Daddy' and H. 'Halcyon' in its background or that these plants were used in an unspecified hybridizing program. Or, it may note physical similarities and surmise that a certain hosta is likely to be in the background Technically the parentage of this hosta should read pod parent unknown and pollen parent unknown.

Sibling - When a hybridizer gathers seeds from hostas, they come in pods which contain many individual seeds. They may plant all of the seeds from one pod parent and then evaluate dozens or more seedlings. Generally, they throw away almost all of them and may choose one or more (or none) as worthy of being named. When multiple seedlings are named from the same breeding, they would be called siblings. Of course, since each seed was developed from a different egg fertilized by different pollen, they would NOT be genetically identical. It is the same as a human family of six children with the same parents.

During tissue culture (TC) propagation, hundreds and perhaps thousands of clones are produced from a small amount of tissue from a single hosta. Each one of these new plants "should" be identical to all the others. However, due to the use of plant hormones and other chemicals during the process, a small percentage of the resulting plants will have different traits from the mother plant. If two or more of these plants from the same TC batch are given names, these would also be considered as siblings.

"Type" Plants - A commonly used way to help identify a cultivar, especially if it is of unknown parentage, is to call it a certain "type" based on its physical traits. Commonly used examples include 'Sieboldiana'-type, 'Fortunei'-type or Tardiana-type. This gives a general "feeling" for the cultivar's size, leaf color or other characteristics but does not identify its actual parentage.

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