think of the origin of hostas, most likely Japan first comes to mind,
rightly so, since the vast majority, the approximately 40 recognized
from that country. In fact, only three countries can claim hostas as
native to their borders - Japan, China, and Korea. In this article, I
more closely at the Korean hostas and talk about how their
used by hosta breeders to enhance our shade gardens.
has eight native hosta species: Hosta
capitata, H. clausa, H. jonesii, H. laevigata, H. minor, H.
venusta and H. yingeri. H. laevigata is
closely related to H.
closely related to H.
closely related to H.
jonesii. H. capitata
more distantly related
to the group. In proposing these relationships, researchers such as
compared the morphology and enzymes of
the Korean species. In another study, Suave, et
used Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA
analysis to determine there was low genetic similarity between H.
than this discrepancy, their findings closely matched those of Chung, et
breeders will find these relationships useful
for isolating characteristics for their hybridization programs.
learn clues for how best to grow these hostas.
capitata is found in the
of the Korean peninsula and in Japan. It is physically isolated from
Korean species, which explains its isolation on the family tree, as
the figure below). Morphologically, it is similar to the Japanese
species Hosta nakaiana, but
according to Suave,
al., it is genetically quite different. The tall scapes
throughout the species, but, depending on population source, there is
considerable variation in leaf size. The leaves on this medium-sized plant have rippled
margins. The purple flowers
are tightly arranged in clusters.
capitata has not been used
hybridization, but some variations and hybrids do exist. H. 'Shirobana Kanzashi' is
a white-flowered form. H.
a hybrid with H. montana, has a
flower display. It was developed in Japan and brought to the U.S. prior
1939. H. 'Amanuma', a hybrid with H. venusta, forms a compact mound and
has a good flower display. H. 'Show
Piece' was also selected for its outstanding flower display. It is a
with H. nakaiana.
'Tatted Lace', a hybrid with the cultivar 'Ruffles', differs little
from H. capitata itself. So,
ruffled margins of the species, breeders seemed to be more interested
flower display, a characteristic that few hybridizers are interested in
clausa, a medium-sized species, with the
broadest geographic range of
any of the Korean species, also shows the most species variation. There
four varieties in existence. H. clausa var.
clausa is a triploid and
found in the wild because of its genetic abnormality. The flowers of
rhizomatous spreading plant remain closed, and the plant does not form
pods. H. clausa var. ensata has narrow lanceolate leaves. It
is rarely found commercially. Another rarity is Hosta
clausa var. stolonifera.
Spreading by rhizomes, it never produces flowers
or scapes. The variety
that has been used significantly in breeding programs is H.
clausa var. normalis.
It is a diploid with a normal breeding program. Along with H. tsushimensis and H.
yingeri, it is a major contributor to the red coloration in
and up into the leaves. Though the oval leaves are normally a dark
sport with golden leaves was discovered by R. Herman and registered in
'Golden Arrow'. H. 'Purple Lady
Fingers, a hybrid with H. longissima,
has a prolific display of closed purple flowers. H.
'Beauty Little Blue', a cross between H.
clausa var. normalis
and the cultivar 'Blue Cadet', has narrow blue foliage and spreads by
H. 'Brooklynn's Baby
Doll', a cross
with H. venusta, has rippled,
greenish-yellow foliage. The diminutive leaves are only three inches
characteristic of H. clausa, that
Solberg has attempted to take advantage of, is the purple coloration
the petioles. He crossed 'Strawberry Banana Smoothie', a cross between
Sour' and a sibling, to get 'Mango Salsa', ‘Peach Salsa’, 'Lemon Ice',
'Smiley Face'. All have red petioles, bright yellow foliage, and
color in the shade.
found only on the islands of
and Sohuksan off the southwest coast of Korea. It is found among the
shady, northwest facing slopes and hillsides, often in pine forests. It
discovered in 1984 by plant collector Barry Yinger and named for him by
B. Jones in 1989. The size of H.
varies from 9 to 19 inches tall. Leaf size and
shape are variable. Leaves are thick and succulent, with top and bottom
surfaces very shiny. Veins are inconspicuous on the flat leaves. A
characteristic of the species is that the flowers are evenly spaced
scape. The lobes of the deep lavender flowers are spread out in a
‘Lily Pad’, a Bob Solberg selection with blunt leaves, is typical of
found in the wild. H.
‘Treasure Island’, another seedling selection, made by Tony Avent, has
puckering between the veins. A white-margined sport of H.
up in the tissue-culture lab of Mark Zilis, and he named it ‘Gentle
yingeri is used extensively
breeding, especially by the hybridizers Bob Solberg, Tony Avent, Greg
Don Dean, and Roy Herold. Johnson
crossed H. yingeri with 'Sum and
Substance' to get 'Old Coot' and 'Jaz'. Both have good substance and
leaves. One of Avent's crosses was H.
yingeri 'Treasure Island' with another of his selections,
The result was a cultivar named 'Get Nekkid'. The medium-sized plant
shiny leaves with a wavy margin and a fine display of lavender,
flowers. Dean used a cross between a 'Swoosh' seedling, 'John Wargo'
and H. yingeri to get 'Celtic
Similar to H. yingeri, but larger,
forms an attractive upright mound of shiny green foliage. Herold
'Swoosh' with H. yingeri to get
'Harpoon', a yellow-margined plant with a shiny dark green center.
'Korean Snow' from a pod of H. yingeri
seeds. The pollen parent is unknown. This good breeder has foliage that
misted with white and was used by Avent to produce 'Dixie Cups' and
Dan'. Solberg also crossed H. yingeri with
'Ogon Tsushima' to get the cultivars 'Strawberry Banana Smoothie', 'Sun
Catcher', and 'Whiskey Sour'. Another cross, utilizing the species H. clausa var. normalis,
in addition to 'Ogon Tsushima' and H. yingeri,
resulted in the red-petioled 'Beet Salad'.
|H. 'Get Nekkid'
||H. 'Whiskey Sour'
||H. 'Beet Salad'
laevigata is found on the same
H. yingeri and is
closely related to
it, but has lighter green lanceolate leaves with a wavy margin. It also
the spider flower characteristic, but they are larger than those of H. yingeri. Unfortunately, it is
difficult to hybridize because it does not readily form seed pods.
Schmid crossed the pollen of H. laevigata
onto H. longipes f.
sparsa to get a
seedling, which he then
crossed with H. yingeri. The
is the cultivar 'Gosan Leather Strap'. A few sports also exist, most
'Ray of Hope'. This heavily streaked plant sported in the tissue
culture lab of
Mark Zilis, resulting in the selection 'Roller Coaster Ride'.
venusta is only found on
off the southern coast of Korea. The
phenotype imported and available in the trade is a miniature form,
much larger forms of H. venusta
in the wild, but are not available. Maximum height on
this natural dwarf is six
inches. Because of its diminutive size, it has been much used in
Though much variation exists in the wild, some even with a piecrust
the leaves, up until 1990 only one type existed in the U.S. The cultivars 'Minuta',
'Minima', 'Rock Princess', 'Thumbnail',
'Suzuki Thumbnail', 'Tiny Tears', and 'Akarana' are all selfed forms of
H. venusta that are
look-alikes to that original introduction.
with yellow leaves is 'Ogon Tsushima'. This plant has been used often
Solberg in his hybridization programs. Crossing 'Ogon Tsushima' with H. yingeri, he obtained the yellow
foliaged cultivars 'Whiskey Sour' and 'Sun Catcher'. He then took an F2
seedling of this cross and crossed it with H.
clausa var. normalis.
resulting plant, 'Beet Salad', has red petioles and is a good breeding
for this characteristic.
|H. 'Riviera Sunset'
|H. 'Lakeside Neat Petite'
examples of hybrids where H. venusta was
the pod parent are 'Gemstone', 'Lakeside Neat Petite', and
'Masquerade'. H. 'Gemstone' is a
cross with 'Dorset
Blue' and resulted in a low mound of blue-green foliage, essentially
the best qualities of both parents. H.
'Lakeside Neat Petite', a cross between H.
venusta and 'Blue Cadet', develops into an eleven inch mound
heart-shaped green foliage. It has a notable display of bright purple
formed on scapes just above the foliage. H.
'Masquerade' is a well-known cross between H.
venusta and a sport of H. sieboldii.
It forms an attractive six inch mound of white-centered, green-margined
foliage. Unfortunately, it has a tendency to sport green-leaved shoots.
stable sport of it, though, is 'Little White Lines'. Discovered by Mark
in his lab, it forms a small mound of white-margined foliage.
have also been made using H. venusta as
the pollen parent. Bob
Solberg crossed H. venusta with
'Shining Tot' and got
'Cody' as a result, a six inch mound of dark green leaves with good
Tony Avent used multiple crosses which included H.
venusta. Among his introductions are 'Hush Puppie' and
'Appetizer'. H. 'Hush Puppie' is a
small mound of green-centered, white-margined foliage. H.
'Appetizer' is a small mound of green-centered, yellow-margined
|Korean species map|
Mark Zilis wondered
what would happen if he crossed the
known at that time ('Sum and Substance') with the smallest. A wide
progeny resulted, including 'Leather Sheen' and 'Little Razor'. H. 'Leather Sheen' forms a medium-sized
mound of shiny, dark green foliage with a rapid growth rate. H. 'Little Razor' is a small plant with
golden foliage. Three other cultivars from that same cross are 'Golden
'New Wave', and 'Courtesy'. Don
went one step further, crossing 'Leather Sheen' with 'Beatrice'. The
'Riviera Sunset', is ten inches tall and has an orangey-golden edge
a green center.
made an interesting complex cross where H.
venusta was in both the pod and pollen parents. He first
Splash' with H. tibae and then
crossed this plant with H. venusta.
The resulting seedling was then used as the pod parent.
The pollen parent was a seedling,
from a cross between H. venusta and
'Shining Tot'. The end result was a plant the
size of H. venusta he
named 'Imp', which
has white margins on shiny, slightly wavy leaves.
similar to H. venusta, according to
Chung, et al.,
is H. minor.
It is found in the
southern and eastern
regions of Korea and is distinguished by the distinctive ridges along
scape. Similar to H. venusta, it
reaches a height of just eight inches. The problem with using this
breeding programs is that most of the plants listed as H.
minor in the US are not actually H.
minor. It is not only confused with H.
venusta, but with H.
nakaiana and H. sieboldii
well. A rare hybrid of H. minor is
called 'Mrs. Minky'. It is a cross with 'Piedmont Gold' and forms a
of chartreuse foliage with rippled margins. No other hybrids are known
tsushimensis is only found on
Island, which is in the Korean Strait between the Korean peninsula and
Island in Japan. Though it is typically
inches tall, other characteristics are quite variable. The leaf margins
smooth or wavy. Inflorescences are branched in some populations, not
in others. Moreover, it may be found on moist or dry sites. Though
found with light purple flowers, a white-flowered form known as
Tsushima', exists too. A rare yellow-flowered form, obtained by Mark
friends in Japan, will soon be on the market.
|H. 'Leather Sheen'
similar to H. tsushimensis is H. jonesii. M. G. Chung discovered it in
1989 and named it after another plant explorer, Sam Jones. It is found
several islands off the southwest coast of Korea and differs from H. tsushimensis by having a creeping
rhizome and reddish-purple scapes. The average size of this species is
inches tall. George Schmid states that it is a worthy plant, but, as of
cultivars or selections exist. Though you may be inclined to add H. jonesii to your breeding program, be
forewarned that most plants sold as this species in the U.S. are not correctly
characteristics of hosta species and isolating those characteristics in
breeding programs may result in unique plants for the hosta market. Bob
states that he never intended to just use the Korean species for
in the petioles, but the similarity of the genes of the Korean species
helped push the red color further into the leaves. Crossing a plant
with red in
the flowers (i.e., H. tsushimensis)
with one that has red in the petioles (i.e., H.
clausa var. normalis)
may result in further concentration of the red pigments.
to the red pigment, the Korean hostas have many desirable features. It
more hosta hybridizers took a closer look at them for their breeding
1. Chung, M.G., Jones,
S.B., Hamrick, J.L., and
Chung, H.G. "Morphometric
Isozyme Analysis of the Genus Hosta
(Liliaceae) in Korea." Plant Species Biology, 6 : 55-69. 1991.
W. George. The Genus Hosta -
Zoku. Timber Press, Portland, OR. Batsford Ltd. London. P. 64-65, 316;
3. Suave, R.J., Zhou,
S., Yu, Y., and Schmid,
DNA Analysis in the Genus Hosta. HortScience. 40(5): 1243-1245. 2005.
4. Schmid, W. George.
“The Ridged Hostas of Korea”. The British
Hosta and Hemerocallis Bulletin. P. 38-45; 1997.
note: This article represents an
overview of all eight species from Korea. Look for a four installment
appear in The Hosta Journal, each
focusing upon two species in greater depth. A thank you is extended to
George Schmid for his in-depth
historical contributions to this article.