Mystery a Begonia

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What is the best way to get a plant? For me, it will always go through a plant exchange.

Sometimes new plants come to me in a really unexpected way. A volunteer from the community herb garden asked for advice on plants for dry shade, and I offered her a piece of my Aspidistra ‘Asahi’ – a beautiful variegated Aspidistra with cream tips on the leaves. In return, she gave me a leaf from an heirloom begonia that had been part of her family for years, a robust plant that had been cut several times to make new plants.

She didn’t know the species or the variety; I was expecting it to be maybe a beefsteak begonia or a spotted Lucerne. When he arrived, I quickly realized after going through my checklist of mental begonias (we all have one, don’t we?) that I had no idea what it was :; only that it was a beauty. The large leaves were dark olive green above, brown below and slightly pubescent everywhere, including the stems.

When asked on Instagram for suggestions, two names appeared – Begonia thurstonii and Begonia ‘Oldemore’. However, the first one does not have hairy leaves, so it seemed that “Oldemore” was the ID. Except. Except. The nomenclature of begonias, like so many other indoor plants, is a spaghetti soup. Entanglement. A real old mess. Professional breeders have always stuck trade names on plants so that they sell better: the origin of some names, such as Begonia maculata ‘Wightii’, seems to have been completely lost in history (believe me, I tried to find out for my chapter on this species in my book legends of the leaf. No Dice.

However, with a little more research, I found some kind of answer. It seems that “Oldemor” (or “Oldemore”, as it is also spelled) is one of those trade names for a hybrid variety whose official name is Begonia “Credneri” – its parents are (females) B. scharffiana var. scharffiana and (male) Begonia incarnata (formerly known as B. metallica). Oldemore means great-grandmother in Danish, so maybe a former relative Of a breeder provided both this name and the mother plant for a nursery. (If you want to know more about begonia pollination and reproduction, take a look.)

“Credneri” is a heritage begonia from 1890 created in Germany by Friedrich Adolph Haage and Franz Schmidt. It makes sense: my friend didn’t know how long it had been in her family, but it certainly hadn’t been bought recently. It has recently returned to mass production and is marketed under the name “Oldemor” by Eden Collection in the Netherlands.

From what you hear, this is a shrub begonia that can grow quite large: as a tubular begonia, it must be propagated from stem cuttings.

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