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UPLB scientists develop new hybrids of Philippine ornamentals

Rita T. dela Cruz

Scientists from the Department of Horticulture, University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) have developed 12 hybrids of ornamental plants --- 9 aglaonemas, 2 orchids, and 1 anthurium.

Illumination
Illumination

Aglaonema: The lucky plant

Locally known as La Suerte, aglaonema (Aechmea fasciata L.) is a well-liked ornamental plant in the Philippines for the belief that it brings luck to its owners. Aglaonemas are suitable for indoor use since they flourish well in low light conditions.

Today, through the effort of scientists from UPLB, new crosses that are excellent as pot plants and cutfoliage have been produced. The nine new hybrids are more colorful, have thicker leaves and grow faster than those previously cultivated in the early nineties. The selection and breeding of these new cultivars were made possible through the Integrated Ornamental Horticulture R&D Program (IOHRDP) of the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development-Department of Science and Technology (PCARRD-DOST). The nine hybrids are: Pearl of the Orient, Platinum, Silver Anniversary, Cory, Ela, Ela's Green, Illumination, Marikit and Miriam.

Ingrid Fancy
Ingrid Fancy

The Pearl of the Orient was bred by Dr. Teresita L. Rosario and Mr. Fernando B. Aurigue of the Department of Horticulture, College of Agriculture, UPLB. This cultivar is notable for its dark green leaves and the broad band of silver that runs along its yellowish midrib. Its petiole is grayish pink to pinkish brown.

The Platinum is a selection from the offspring of a cross made by the same scientists who bred the Pearl of the Orient under the same program of PCARRD-DOST. This plant has dark green leaves with five prominent irregular silver lines originating from both sides of the midrib and slightly merging near the margin. There are tiny silver islands present in between the lines of the leaves. Lateral veins are visible as dark green lines in most part of the silver markings.

The Silver Anniversary is another product of the Rosario-Aurigue effort. Major portions of its leaves are silver-gray with scattered green markings on its margin. The midrib is conspicuously and irregularly green. The petiole is grayish brown to dark gray-green.

Dr. Romeo Gutierrez bred Cory, another cultivar of the aglaonema which was named after former President Corazon Aquino. Its broad, dark green leaves consist of a herringbone pattern of grayish-silver, with yellow marks along the midrib. Like the sunburst, the yellow coloration of the young leaves becomes conspicuous through proper light conditions. It has white petioles and many suckers.

Other Gutierrez creations are the Ela and the Ela's Green. These aglaonemas were named after his wife. Ela is a very attractive plant with compact growth. It has a dark green and attractive yellow-cream spots scattered throughout the upper surface of its leaves. Like other aglaonemas, its petioles are white. The Ela's Green is a robust plant with dark green leaves and a herringbone pattern due to its lateral veins, marked with narrow silver-gray.

Illumination, as its name implies, is an outstanding cultivar with white petioles and gold spotted leaves. Yellow spots are prominent on the midrib and adjacent areas of the plant. This hybrid was bred by Dr. Gutierrez and was released in Florida, USA.

Two more cultivars were named after a woman: Marikit and Miriam. The Marikit has narrow, upright, elliptic leaves. Its dark green leaves are almost entirely silver-gray except the midrib and margin. The Miriam, after the former Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, is a tall, handsome plant with thick stems and upright olive-green leaves. It has a silvery-gray variegation. Dr. Gutierrez developed both these cultivars.

The fashionable orchids

It was during the early nineteenth century when owning orchids became a fashionable status symbol among the wealthy. It swept through Europe and as these collectors brought these fashionable plants to the tropical countries, orchids mania swept in instantly (www.geocities.com/athens/styx/historyoforchids.html). And so began the plants' popularity in the Philippines. Orchids belong to the Orchidaceae family and has four types: a.) epiphytes (air plants which grow chiefly on trees); b.) lithophytes (clings to the surfaces of rocks); c.) saccophytes (grow in decaying vegetation on the forest floor); and d.) terrestrials (roots in soil or sand). In the Philippines, the most popular varieties of orchids are Vanda and Dendrobium. Other varieties are Cattleya, Cybidium and Phalaenopsis.

Orchids are identified in terms of genera and species, and mostly their names are derived from scientific and Latin words. Many orchids are named after famous collectors and plant hunters. An example is Vanda sanderianawhich is named after the 'Orchids King' Frederick Sander who collected it from Mindanao, Philippines in 1880.

Today, our local scientists have developed two more hybrids of orchids-the Spathoglottis Sunrise and the Dendrobium Ingrid Fancy. The Sunrise was developed by two women scientists, Dr. Teresita Rosario and Ms. Anilyn Maningas of UPLB. A very beautiful cross, its yellow flowers are spotted with numerous brick red dots starting at the base of petals vanishing towards the tip. Its lateral lobes are also brick red. Meanwhile, the Ingrid Fancy is white with bluish purple petal tips. Its lip has a yellowish midlobe with bluish purple tip. The lateral lobes are whitish green. Considered as one of the best cloned pastel hybrids of Davao City's Ms. Charita Puentespina, the Ingrid Fancy was also developed with the help of Rosario and Maningas.

Philip-Anthurium's new king

Anthurium is an herbaceous, hothouse plant. It has large highly colored leaves, a cylindrical cluster of flowers (spadix), and colored leafy sheaths (spathe). Growers of anthuriums in the Philippines cultivate mainly the old Hawaiian varieties, such as Kaumana and Nitta. Other varieties grown in the country are Baguio white and pink, Obake, Netarade, Miyana, and Tulip. Most companies get varieties intended for export mainly from Holland (www.da.gov.ph/ agribiz/cutflowers.html). The elegant blooms of this tropical aroid (belonging to the Arum family of perennial plants) are produced and sold throughout the world. Although anthuriums are sensitive to low temperatures, they have a long vase life when properly handled. A newly developed hybrid of the anthurium foliage is King Philip. This is a clone of the selection from an inter-specific cross made by Mr. Fernando Aurigue of UPLB. It has elongated green leaves. The yellow-green spathe is lance-shaped, with darker veins and garish purple margin. Meanwhile, its spadix is black to purplish-brown turning to plum purple.

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For more information, please contact the following: for the aglaonemas, contact the Ornamental Crops Division, Department of Horticulture, UPLB, College, Laguna through telephone number (049) 536-2227 and the Exotica-Flowers and Plants, Inc., 48 Dinorado St., Sta Fe Subdivision, College, Laguna through telephone number (04) 536-0689 or e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; for the orchids, contact the Puentespina Orchid Farm c/o of Mrs. Charita Puentespina, Malagos, Davao City through telephone number (082) 560-5128 or fax (082) 221-1395; for the anthurium, contact Ms. Clarita C. Pagulong, 27 Pilar St., Addition Hills, 1500 San Juan, Metro Manila through telephone numbers (02) 725-9645.)