South West Region - American Begonia Society
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Latin American Begonias

This program was presented at the Astro Branch meeting, October 2004.

There are two primary goals of this meeting: 1). To view, handle, and discuss several unique begonias which originated in Latin America, including Mexico. 2). To take cuttings and share these plants.

First, the Latin American begonias currently in cultivation come from all the countries, but with the majority of the named species from mexico. There are also a great deal of the Uxxx species from Costa Rica.

These species encompass the entire range of begonia growth habits with the possible exception of those tuberous/semi-tuberous.

Perhaps the best known of all of the latin american species is B. heracleifolia. This plant is found in all the countries from southern Mexico to Panama and comes in numerous recognized varieties. Some are light green, some dark green, and many light green with dark highlights.

Two of the species are of particular interest to me because they have such good sun resistance. I have found that both B. scabrida and B. nelumbiifolia will take full sun after a brief adjustment period. These are both great landscape plants for the Houston area. Both will freeze at or below about 28 degrees F., but both will come back the next year and make a full size attractive plant by mid summer.

Another plant of particular interest to hybridizers has been B. bowerae. This plant was found in Mexico in the late '40s by MacDougall and came to the R. Ziesenhenne, Santa Barbara Ca. He began hybridizing with it and it immediately became a favorite because of it's dominent genes. By 1975, there were over 750 cultivrs that owed their attractive appearance to the one species. When you see a plant with light green leaves with distinctly black margins and eyelash margins, it is probably of B.bowerae derivation. I personally grow B. 'Persian Brocade', 'Giddy', and several others of this type.

We have been very fortunate to have had some persistent collectors visit Mexico and Latin America over the past 50 years. MacDougall was active in the '40-'50s; Dr. K. Burt-Utley was very active in the mid '80s; and Dr. Rekha Morris is busy today. We have received new species over these years, and replenished the established ones. We are receiving new seeds on a regular basis now, and adding to our collections.

There is much more to discuss, but lets start sharing cuttings as we talk.

Latin American species commonly seen in collections.
(begonia name, author of name, year of name, country of origin)