With nearly 90 species in the genus there can theoretically be about 8000 different hybrid combinations; and for each combination the pollen and seed parent can be either way round, so we can double that count. When a hybrid produces fertile seed or has fertile pollen, it can back-cross with either or both of its parents, or in principle with other related species. There are a lot of possibilites! Yet hybrids are remarkably uncommon.
Meconopsis ×cookei ‘Old Rose’
Meconopsis hybrids in cultivation
In cultivation, many different species can be brought together, so hybrids have been made deliberately, or sometimes have occurred spontaneously. Even so, there are fewer than 20 pairs of species that have been crossed. In just two cases it is postulated that several species have contributed to complex swarms of plants.
Plants labelled M. napaulensis are widely available in the horticulture trade. They are good garden plants, with lovely foliage. After a few years they produce tall stems with dozens of large flowers, red, pink, white, yellow, sometimes with blue shades. Then they die – but not before producing large amounts of viable seed. The correct name for these plants is M. ×complexa.
Occasionally plants said to be M. horridula are sold, or seed with this name is contributed to seed exchanges. It is not clear exactly what they are, but they are not M. horridula, which is a high alpine plant, extremely difficult to grow, and probably not in cultivation. They may be hybrids of several related species, or possibly one of the species. In the absence of further information they should be described as M. ×setifera.
The big blue poppies (and their white relatives)
Although The Meconopsis Group came into existence to sort out the naming of the big blue poppies, we still are not sure what they are. Some may be variants of species, particularly M. grandis subsp. grandis, M. gakyidiana and M. baileyi. Others are probably hybrids involving M. grandis subsp. grandis, M. gakyidiana, M. baileyi and M. simplicifolia, and others are more complicated hybrids of these species.
There are also white-flowered hybrids, including the following.
‘Marit’ [‘Lingholm’ × (xsarsonsii)]
‘Willett’ [‘Lingholm’ × sulphurea]
- Many of these hybrids have one monocarpic parent. The hybrids themselves are often monocarpic. Moreover, they are often sterile. They therefore do not continue in cultivation, and many of those listed above are probably no longer in existence. We hope that group members will make the crosses again, and report on the plants that they grow.
- Hybridisation of cultivated plants can occur naturally, and so there is a risk that some species could not continue in their pure form. As a group we are encouraging members to become champions of particular species. They would grow ‘their’ species without any other species that could hybridise with it within pollinating range. If you would like to be such a champion, please contact us.
- We plan to produce a gallery of photographs of hybrids, like those that we have for wild taxa, and for cultivars. Please contact us if you have photographs of hybrids that you could share.