This is a begonia discovered by Kathleen Burt Utley in Costa Rica at Cartago: about 7.2 km E of Tuis and 5.3 km E of Platanillo along rd. to Bajo Pacuare and Moravia, at 2900 ft., according to the International Database of Begoniaceae or IDB. That 2900 ft. is significant to know because in our climate we can just about be sure that anything above about 1,000 to 1,500 ft. will demand that we grow it in a terrarium. It can probably also be grown in a heated greenhouse in the winter to spring, but it is may be easier just to keep it in a terrarium where I am growing mine. Kathleen Burt Utley is a botanist who taught until retirement at the University of New Orleans; she now resides I believe in Florida. She also served as ABS Nomenclature Director for a while. It’s leaves are quite beautiful. It is said that these are best in low light. It has a thin, creeping rhizome. It can be propagated from pieces of rhizome or from leaves which is how I did mine. The photo above illustrates that it propagates and grows well from small pieces of the leaf as you can see from the photo of my propagation box. You can also see I should have transplanted these cuttings to a terrarium long ago although they do survive well in the crowded conditions. The flowers which have not yet appeared on my plant placed in a terrarium are white with both male and females open at the same time which is helpful if we want to self pollinate our plants to get seed. You should leave the terrarium open for an hour around noon, before brushing the female flower with the male flower pollen. The humidity in the terrarium makes the pollen damp and not transfer well if at all. Since this plant is among the American rhizomatous species, the female bloom would likely also cross well with other American rhizomatous species. Although I am not fond of growing in terrariums, the beauty of this plant does make it worth the extra effort. I think you would enjoy it. Pictured is the plant I have placed in the terrarium.
Begonia bogneri Ziesenhenne by Freda Holley
If you want to confuse and amaze your nonbegoniac friends, just introduce them to this begonia. They are sure to tell you that it cannot be a begonia, but you may assure them that it is indeed. Of course, you just learned from the Special SWR Edition of the Bayou Begonian that this little begonia with grass like leaves won this year’s SWR Best of Show award as well as Best Species, Division Award, a blue ribbon, and a Cultural Award for its grower Leora Fuentes. You can see the photo of this winner in the Newsletter, but Johanna Zinn who took that photo sends a photo of her own plant to show us here. In addition, our Louisiana member Monika Saxton also grows a beautiful plant. She has pollinated its female blooms and has a female flower that will soon become a seed pod. It is not easy to get terrarium plants to set seed, but it can be done if you are diligent. Monika has the first incipient seed pod I have seen on B. bogneri, however, and now thanks to her photo you can see it here too.
B. bogneri was first described and named, by Rudy Ziesenhenne in an article in the Begonian in 1973, but he named it for its original collector Josef Bogner who found it in Madagascar in 1969. This little plant is a tuberous begonia which can at times go completely dormant. I first wrote about this plant in an article in the Begonian in 2005 and you will find this article on the ABS website at www.begonias.org where I also quote extensively from Ziesenhenne’s original article.
Since I always like to know about propagation, this one is known to be an easy starter - just clip one of the leaves and insert it, or cut it into short pieces and insert the pieces into your starting medium. You may also divide the plant or grow it from seed.
Begonia maculata Raddi by Freda Holley
This begonia can likely withstand more heat and sun than many cane-like begonias grown in our area. I found several surprises in doing a bit of research on this one. I have always called the version I knew as the main variety, Begonia maculata var. maculata ; there were various other versions and it had always peeved me that one prominent nursery misidentified Begoniamaculata var. maculata as var. wightii  which in reality has more and smaller spots. However, the Kew Plant Name Index now identifies only Begonia maculata and all the former varieties are identified as synonyms. Along with those former varieties, including wightii, elegantissima, argentea, a number of familiar names we have known as independent species are now also subsumed under B. maculata including B. corallina and dichroa. Species names will never be static it seems. Most of our familiar cane-like species originate in Brazil as does this one.
However, regardless of what we may call it, I do love this begonia. I once took a perfect 12” long leaf and dried it. It remained perfect and held its beauty for many years. The plant must be carefully cared for to keep it beautiful for the landscape  with frequent pinching and pruning. Otherwise. the stems can get very tall, then losing the lower leaves. Not only are the leaves beautiful, but the flowers as well come in a lovely large white cluster . It also wants regular feeding and watering. It has long been a favorite of hybridizers, including me. I crossed it with B. aconitifolia to get 3 plants: B. ‘Taylor Anne’ which never loses its large white spots, B. ‘Faint Heart’ which initially has spots, but soon loses them to plain leaves, and B. ‘Triplet’ which never has spots, but is the hardiest and largest of the three. All three of these are landscape plants standing about 6’ or more and with many, many stems. They, as B. aconitifolia, tend to go semidormant in winter, lose many leaves and then releaf top to bottom in early spring. Each of these plants are 20 years old this year and still going strong. New plants start best in spring as well. Other popular beauties from this species are B. ‘Flamingo Queen’ (Ross Bolwell), B. ‘Lone Star Aussie’ (Don Miller), and B. ‘Catherine” (Paul Tamtsis). Brad Thompson and Walter Dworkin each have a number of hybrids with this parentage.
Begonia lanceolata Vellozo by Freda Holley
Brazil is the origin of a number of epiphyte begonia species, that is those that have their home in the angles of branches and the trunks of trees where leaves and debris have collected. I have tried to grow several of these in the past including B. herbacea and U604 without much success. Nevertheless, I ordered and planted Brazil seed of B. lanceolata in January of 2017 not expecting much of it in Louisiana’s heat and humidity. Three tiny seedlings resulted. With the usual habit of my seedlings one rapidly outgrew the others and was a sizeable blooming plant by the time of our convention in New Orleans in April of 2018 where it took a blue ribbon (1). To my surprise all the seedlings continued to grow well through the summer heat of 2018 and by this spring all were blooming. One of the two smaller plants has almost overtaken the fast grower, but one still remains much smaller. Each had blooms. I kept looking for the female blooms, however, and saw only males. Then I read that with this begonia, the female blooms were deep in the base of the plant and then, inspecting the base closely sure enough I found the odd shaped (2) female blooms. I pollinated those and now have a ripe seed pod, In photo 3, the pod is difficult to see just to the right of the 3, but the harvested pod is in my palm in photo 4. Many of the juvenile leaves of this plant have white spots although I read somewhere that its leaves should have no spots at any time. At this point some leaves still have spots although most have lost those spots and are now a deep green. They are quite thick and heavy. I have put several of the leaves down to see if they will form new plants. I like the uniqueness of the plant and welcome its seeming hardiness here. Although I was unfamiliar with the plant, it is not one of the newly discovered, In fact, the name was published nearly a century ago in 1831. Interestingly, it has 56 chromosomes as do the cane-like begonias. I am wondering if it would be possible to get a cross with a cane. Try this one; I think you will like it. B. lanceolata has a synonym, B. attenuata
Begonia Deja Thoris by Cindy Moran
“Deja Thoris” has beautiful silvery-pink foliage with a crested spiral leaf form-a real jewel in any begonia collection. The odd name comes from a science fiction book by Edgar Rice Burroughs-“Deja Thoris” is a Martian princess. A princess would be smaller than a queen and indeed, this begonia qualifies. After growing for two and a half years, she is only about 12”wide by 12” tall.
Bred by a California breeder, Patrick Worley in about 2001, she traveled to Florida to another breeder, Tim Anderson. From there, a mother plant must have gone to Harmony Farms, who sent me my plant as a thimble size rooted cutting. After several months in the greenhouse, she was still too small to go to our convention plant sale, so I left her at home and amazingly she survived the summer and became a 4” pot specimen. The photo shows her during her third summer and this must be a record for a rex/rhizomatous type most of whom struggle in our humid, hot Louisiana climate. The breeder does not reveal if she has rex genes, so without confirmation, she may be rhizomatous only, not a distinction that matters! No flowers yet, but they are not missed with such lovely leaves. She grows on a baker’s rack under an overhang and gets no direct sun-a few prills of osmocote are the only fertilizer supplied. I do try to water her with rain water as local tap water tends to raise the ph. This princess is a toughie!
Begonia sericoneura Liebmann by Freda Holley
This is the begonia that has my highest recommendation for growers in the deep South as it has the highest heat tolerance of any begonia species I know. It has been in circulation in the U.S. for a long time and was published in 1858. It is ubiquitous in the Central America of its origin and takes many forms leading to many synonyms as it was discovered in the various countries; some include B. lindleyana, hypolipara, and nicaraguensis. It has also been given a few U# designations as it was found anew. However, my favorite form is the one shown as Figure 1; this photo was taken in August 2019 at the height of our current heat wave. My second favorite form, Begonia hypolipara, has plain green, rounded leaves. Flowers in Figure 2 are white and profuse. Its seed pods in Figure 3 have one dramatically large wing among its 3 wings. It forms seed readily and is easy to propagate from leaf or rhizome cuttings. It has an upright rhizome which places it for horticultural classification as a Thick Stem, trunklike, non- ramified (or non-branching). This placement may be confusing, but the rhizome is undoubtedly thick and is a stem. This species takes its place alongside hybrid B. ‘Selph’s Mahogany’ as the two hardiest begonias for Louisiana and the deep south in my estimation. That hybrid shares the same classification and may indeed be a progeny of B. sericoneura, although its exact parentage is not known. My hybridizing efforts to produce new heat hardy hybrids often include crosses with this species as well. My start of this plant was given to me by a friend from the South Houston area many years ago.
Begonia cornitepala by Freda Holley
For the past several years I have been growing Brazil begonia seed from Mauro Piexoto (brazilplants.com) for any begonia that I have not yet grown to test their hardiness for Louisiana or other hot climate areas. B. cornitepala (Fig. 1) is one that I have found quite heat hardy that has other traits that make it desirable as well. It has long, slender leaves that tend to be a bit succulent and is quite tall. It has attractive and interesting white flowers that have short white, reddish tiped white hairs on the tepal backs and ovaries. I think it is one that anyone who likes the cane-like begonias would want. Although it is horticulturally identified as shrub-like, I find it behaves more like other cane-like begonias since many shrub-like begonias are not heat tolerant for me.
Its description was published in 1953 by Irmscher and was found in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil. It is in the Section Pritzelia. It has white flowers and likes as much light as you can give it for better bloom.
I have been growing it for quite a few years now, but have only managed to obtain one seed pod which I got from a plant I grew in isolation from other plants, Here, I cannot give it as much light as it wants for ample bloom or seed set. When I planted seed from this one seed pod, I obtained seedlings (Fig. 2) that were identical to that plant except for one seedling you can easily identify. Of course it could be from one stray cane seed, but because it was the only seed I planted at that time I am going to assume that somehow pollen from a cane made its way to the flower despite my isolation efforts. From this, I will also assume that this plant has 56 chromosomes although it has not been identified as such, and would offer cane and shrub hybridizers new material for crosses. I think this seedling is attractive and it will be interesting to observe as it grows. In the IDB, no progeny has been identified so perhaps this seedling will be the first.
Begonia Sizemoreae by Freda Holley
Begonia sizemoreae (Fig. 1) was collected by Mary Sizemore from Vietnam, according to Mark Tebbit, from a riverbank near Hanoi in 1996. It was then assigned the Unidentified No. U388, but in 2004 was described and named by Ruth Kiew in honor of Mary Sizemore. It has similarities to Begonia rex.
My plant came from Harmony Foliage in 2015 and has thus grown well for me in the Louisiana heat and humidity for four years in contrast to Begonia rex, which I can never keep alive long in our environment. The female flower seedpod has the shape typical of other begonias with 22 chromosomes including that one extra large wing seen in Fig. 2. It crosses well with other begonias of this type and has given me a number of large leaved hybrids that are very heat tolerant. From the photo you can also see if you look carefully at its leaves that their dominant unique feature is a surface filled with long hairs, a feature that has not carried over for me into its hybrids. I have also produced seedlings of the species and find that they grow rather slowly, but are healthy and beautiful. Well grown it can be a prize winner in any show and I recommend it to all Louisiana growers.
Begonia ludwigii Irmscher by Freda Holley
This was a begonia I little expected to find could survive the heat and humidity of Louisiana since it comes from Ecuador and was found at quite high altitudes. However, it has survived for several years here now quite well, of course spending winters in the greenhouse. I have come to cherish it both because it is unusual and beautiful at all stages of leaf (see ruff of hairs in Figure 1 and Figure 2) and flower (Figure 3). It is a begonia now endangered in its native habitat and so I have been very happy to get seed. The flowers are a stark white and begin in a large cluster resembling a bouquet and are large for the plant size. B. ludwigii is horticulturally classified as a thick stem. It has 28 chromosomes which means it will probably cross well with most American rhizomatous species. Indeed its most famous offspring is B. ‘Rudy’ which is a cross with B. popenoei. Although it was described in 1937, there have been only 14 hybrids reported including ‘Rudy’ and my own two cultivars B. ‘Goliath’ and ‘David.’ These 3 cultivars are all upright rhizomatous. My plant came from the Ft. Worth Botanic Garden and it is likely that there will be plants available at theSWR plant sale in Ft. Worth in May 2020.
Begonia reniformis Dryander by Freda Holley
Last month’s Begonia ludwigii was an unusual member of the Thick Stem horticultural group in that it is rather short in stature. These begonias are more often known as the ‘tree begonias’ because they are usually very tall and stately. Many of these begonias are quite hardy in our heat and humidity. Begoniareneformis has been chosen as our begonia of the month because for me it has always been the most representative and hardy begonia of the group.
The name comes from the reniform or kidney shape of the all-green leaves. This is a very ubiquitous species in Brazil and has considerable variation from leaf size to height and over time has gone under various synonyms including vitifolia and palmifolia since its initial publication by Dryander In 1791. It has huge clusters of white flowers on tall peduncles coming in late winter to early spring here. The flowers themselves are quite small. Pollination can be tedious because to get seed set, I find it necessary to pollinate a number of the tiny flowers.
This is a great landscape plant, but is not often seen in shows both because of its size and overall plain appearance. It is not often hybridized also because of those factors; however, Bernard Yorke in Australia has several cultivars including ‘Strawberries and Crème’, ‘Naybor’, and ‘Varsity’. Perhaps the most famous U.S. cultivar is B. ‘Boomer’, Mabel Corwin’s cross on B. soli-mutata. My own cultivars include ‘Jack’s Beanstalk’, ‘Gideon’, and ‘Windswept’. The last being more unusual because it is a cross with a trailing scandent. B. reneformis has 38 chromosome as do several of the trailing scandents inlucding B. glabra used in the latter cross. All these cultivars are equally as hardy for us as reneformis itself.
Begonia ‘Madame O’Reilly’ by Freda Holley
Most of our Begonias of the Month have been species, but this month we have a hybrid created by Brad Thompson of California. Brad was one of the most prolific hybridizers ever in the United States and his begonias covered every horticultural group. Many of his hybrids were very unique. He had some series; for example, his snake series of rhizomatous such as Begonia ‘Garter Snake’, ‘Green Snake’, ‘Anaconda’ and many more is well known. Perhaps his best known begonia with which you may be familiar is B. ‘River Nile.’ Many of Brad’s hybrids do not do well in Louisiana because of our very different climate from that of California. B. ‘Madame O’Reilly’, however, is one that I have found to do well here in all but our most extreme seasons of heat and drought. For that, you should be sure to keep new starts from its leaves. The one shown here had no difficulty last year and is now blooming happily once more in the green house. I do not know if it will overwinter well outside as here in North Louisiana temperatures are too low for a trial of that. In addition to its attractive, spiral leaf form, its pink blooms come prolifically and beautifully in season. One thing I like about it is the ease of propagating new plants from its leaves. However, you should be prepared for the frequency with which these leaves sport. Harmony Foliage has named one of these sports ‘Harmony’s Sporty Madame’. I have several variants that have sported also. The parents of this ‘Madame O’Reilly’ are B. ‘Angel Glow’ x ‘Deco Checks’. All its sports I have seen favor the ‘Deco Checks.’ ‘Madame O’Reilly’s growth habit is compact and not overly large and it would be an attractive show plant. B. ‘Madame O’Reilly’ is named for the long time ABS member Thelma O’Reilly who herself is a well known hybridizer.
There should be some leaves available at the June meeting and perhaps some small plants. This is one highly recommended for Louisiana.