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Clivia Miniata Colour Mutations and their Breeding

I don’t profess to be geneticists or to know very much about the way in which colour is inherited in clivia, but by taking a very simple approach of line breeding and a lot of trail and error I have managed to produce true breeding lines of clivia. This knowledge will be valuable to any breeder wishing to perpetuate a particular colour mutation. In the best interest of clivia I have decided to write this article and attempt to share what I have learnt with others.

It is my opinion that for a particular colour mutation to be inherited by sexual reproduction, a pathway has to occur i.e. the genes or other factors influencing the colour would have to line up. A simple way in which to view the chromosomes and the loci on which these chromosomes have mutated is by taking two rulers and placing them side by side, each representing different plants with similar colour mutations and only if both plants have mutated on the same point of the chromosomes (rulers) would the mutation be transferred to the off spring by sexual reproduction.

Plants are relatively easy to line breed / inbreed because of the fact that they can be self-pollinated. Unfortunately mechanisms are in place in plants that inhibit self-pollination and so more effort is required to perpetuate these colour mutations.

The best-known colour mutation in clivia is the yellow mutation occurring in Clivia miniata. Even here just because two plants are yellow doesn’t necessarily mean they have mutated at the same loci on the chromosome. If they haven’t, they will not produce yellow flowering off spring if bred together.

Bill Morris classified the two best known yellow mutations as Group 1 and Group 2 yellows. These groups produce homozygous yellow flowering offspring if bred within their group but revert to orange when bred across the groups i.e. the groups have mutated of different points/loci on the chromosomes. Phenotypically (externally) these yellows are very similar but genotypically (in their genes) they are very different. Any yellow flowering Clivia miniata mutation should not be presumed to belong to one group or another, since many groups exist. These yellows should be tested by controlled breeding with plants from known groups before they can be classified into a group. Probably 99%+ of all yellow miniata available worldwide would be Group 1, the remainder 1% made up by 0.9%+ Group 2 yellow and the remaining 0.1% are numerous other groups.

Examples of these groups are:

-A group which I call Group 3 where the plants display yellow flowers but develop red berries and show maroon stem pigmentation in both seedlings and adult plants. Work is still in progress to classify which and how many clones belong to this group.

-A further group is named in my breeding programme as “Alpha Group”. This group consists of plants, which have mutated on the same point as Ndwedwe Alpha, a wild collected clone. All known plants in Alpha group thus far are direct descendents of Ndwedwe Alpha. When bread together these plants give rise to unpigmented seedlings and resulting yellow flowering plants.

Even yellow plants wild collected in the same area do not necessarily belong to the same group. Examples of this are: Ndwedwe Alpha belongs to Alpha group but Ndwedwe Beta and Ndwedwe Echo, all wild originated from the same area don’t belong to the same groups.

There are many more wild collected yellow clones which do not seem to be part of any of the known groups and will have to be trail bred with other yellows to be classified into groups. Perhaps many of them will be a group on their own, but time and careful controlled trail breeding will prove this.

My approach to an unknown yellow flowering plant with unknown genealogy is to self pollinated the plant and to use it’s pollen onto known groups of plants, for example Group 1 and Group 2 (the two most common groups). The results of these crosses will then guide the breeding programme in the direction, which would best perpetuate the colour mutation. Self-seedlings flowering the same, as the parent should be selected and the breeding programme continued. Even if the offspring don’t flower the same as the desired parent, the best seedlings should be selected and line bred back to the mother plant. This would give more desirable results. Remember not all yellow flowering groups produce unpigmented seedlings. A clue to this would be berry colour on the flowering plant. Red berries on yellow flowering plants can give rise to pigmented seedlings, which eventually flower yellow. If pigmented seedlings are produced when crossed with Group 1 and Group 2 yellows, it can safely be assumed that the plant belongs to another yellow pigmentation group.

Not all naturally occurring clones of whatever group are worth perpetuating in any numbers, since they may be inferior to the existing yellow clones and hybrids available. Some as for example: Ndwedwe Alpha is speculator and is a first class plant thus the “Alpha group” line breeding is being continued to attempt to perpetuate the excellent qualities in Ndwedwe Alpha.

Clivia Miniata colour mutations occur naturally in clivia populations although very rarely. Mutations have been found in wild populations as well as “chance” seedlings in commercially grown clivia populations. These mutations include a large variety of colours including Peach, Pink, Apricot, Bicolor, Pictees and many more.

The approach I take to these colour mutations is to self pollinate them and also to cross them with as many similarly coloured plants as possible, in the hope that some may have mutated on the same loci on the chromosome and will then result in seedlings with a similar colour to the original parents.

An example of successful line breeding is described below.

Over the past nine years I have had the pleasure of being able to work with the plant “Emmie Wittig Pink”. Described by Harold Koopowitz in his book Clivia as “the clearest and truest pink I have ever seen”. The plant has delicate pink flowers, maroon berries and it’s off spring seem to revert to orange. I first acquired a plant in 1996 from Mrs Emmie Wittig, this plant was self-pollinated and also crossed with other known groups of yellow mutation clivia miniata. All resulting off spring were pigmented as seedlings and produced orange flowering plants.[cross pollination and selfing may have occurred as the pollination was not completely controlled}. The best of the orange seedlings were selected and Emmie Wittig Pink was used as a pollen parent onto these plants. The resulting offspring were interesting from the start, producing 1/3 unpigmented, 1/3 lightly pigmented and 1/3 heavily pigmented seedlings. These were grown to maturity with all unpigmented seedlings producing pink flowering plants. Some are similar to the original Emmie Wittig Pink, some better and a good percentage poorer then Emmie Wittig Pink. The pigmented seedlings dark and light produced normal orange flowering plants. The Pink offspring were then crossed back to their mother and siblings. Resulting seedlings are all unpigmented and it can be said that they will flower pink and that a true breeding line of pink clivia miniata has been produced in breeding amongst related plants carrying the Emmie Wittig Pink gene.

It is important when using line breeding as a tool to select seedlings carefully and keep good records as loss of vigor and other recessive undesirable genes may occur in seedlings. Breed plenty and select only the best for further breeding. The more selection pressure placed on the seedlings the quicker the desired results will be achieved.

I first used line breeding/ inbreeding to produce my line of true breeding Chubb Peach plants and have subsequently used it in many other lines with good results. Using these breeding practices it could be said that any clivia miniata mutation or colour form could be reproduced as a true breeding line within 5-9 years by line breeding.