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The family of begonias includes 2 genera, of which only the genus Begonia is of interest and is common in room culture. There are many types of begonias - according to various sources from 1000 to 1400. The native land of these beautiful plants is tropical and subtropical regions of America, Africa and Asia. The habitat is somewhat different - some species live in humid tropical forests, others - in foggy foothills (3000-4000 m above sea level). Some species live in dry undergrowth, on rocky terrain, settling in rock crevices.
In addition to the genus Begonia, the genus Hillebrandia (the only species of Hillebrandia sandwicensis, homeland - Hawaii) is also of interest, outwardly very similar plants to begonias, with beautiful flowers, are not yet endangered species, but a rare enough plant to cause concern for botanists from the Conservation Service wildlife. Hillebrandia is almost never found in culture, only in botanical gardens.
All other genera previously attributed to the Begonia family are already included in the Begonia genus Begonia.
For the first time, representatives of the begonia family were discovered back in the 17th century by the French botanist Charles Plumier. But the plants were named after another name. Charles Plumier's friend and mentor was the Frenchman Michel Begon, who was the quartermaster of the French colonies in the Caribbean, and famous for his love of botany. He was engaged in the taxonomy of plants, and the development of crops. In 1685, he organized Charles Plumier's trip to the Antilles to survey the local flora. And on the basis of the collected herbarium publishes "Description of American plants with their drawings." One of Plumier's plants, begonia, is named after him, and Plumier himself was appointed a royal botanist.
The main work on the breeding of begonias hybrids began somewhat later - at the end of the 19th century, while more than 100 original species served as parent material for obtaining hybrids, and then new varieties.
Among begonias there are both decorative deciduous and decorative flowering species. Begonias are beautiful indoor plants with juicy leaves, fleshy, sometimes fragile stems.
The leaves of many begonias have an asymmetrical shape, somewhat lopsided: oblique-heart or oblique. The oblique leaves often have a pointed tip, which is why it got its name: the shape of the angel's wing Angel Wing. The edge of the leaf is usually serrated or wavy. Many begonias have pubescent leaves, whole, but there are species that have lobed and even finger-like leaves, deeply dissected into lobes. The form of the plant itself can be bushy, with erect or drooping stems, as well as ampelous begonias. The root system is well developed, fibrous, but there is a separate group - tuberous begonias that have a tuber and are grown seasonally.
Male begonia flower
Female begonia flowers
Begoniae are monoecious plants: inflorescences are complex panicles, carry both male and female flowers. The flowers themselves are zygomorphic (very rarely of the correct shape), male flowers in female four- or five-petal flowers above the petals form a triangular seed box. Most begonias bloom all summer, but if the conditions are right, they can bloom in autumn and even winter.
In double hybrids of begonias, only male flowers have doubleness, and female flowers have a simple structure and a modest appearance. In hybrids of begonias, incomplete and complete doubleness of male flowers is widespread, formed due to the transformation of stamens into additional petals. The more pronounced the doubleness of the flower, the less stamens remain; in semi-double begonias, the androecium remains clearly visible. By the way, in fully doubled begonias, stamens may be completely absent, and in some hybrids, there are normally developed stamens with viable pollen among the petals. But pollen quickly loses its fertilizing properties, therefore, only fresh pollen is suitable for artificial fertilization, which is viable even before the flower completely blooms.
There is an opinion that if more simple flowers are formed on the begonias, this is due to the fact that the female flowers were not removed during the time. In fact, the formation of male or female flowers depends on many factors, and the main ones are: genetic predisposition, plant nutrition, for example, it is known that planting in nutrient soil and feeding, contribute to the formation of more male double flowers. More common females bloom on less nutrient media.
In general, the sequence of "sexual development" is inherent in the family of begonias - at the beginning of flowering, first of all male flowers are formed in the inflorescence, after their flowering female flowers bloom. Nature thought out such a development option in order to reduce the pollination of the plant with its own pollen and to consolidate cross-pollination - begonias are pollinated by insects.
The fruit formed after fertilization in most species is a box, much less often an inedible berry. After the seeds ripen, the capsule cracks without falling from the bush and many very small seeds are scattered with the wind.
Of all the representatives of the begonia family, only indoor begonias have become widespread among flower growers. Botanists do not yet have a single strict classification of the entire variety of begonias, therefore, they are conventionally divided into groups, in fact, as it is more convenient to whom.
The most common classification into two main groups: decorative leafy begonias and decorative flowering begonias. In turn, among the leaf begonias, bush and rhizome begonias are distinguished. Tuberous begonias are distinguished from the group of flowering begonias. In each group, there are several more subgroups with a narrower characteristic of the growth form, for example, ampelous begonias among tuberous, among bush ones - caudex.
Despite the huge variety of species and a wide range, they have common features. Firstly, almost all begonias grow in humid areas, so the optimal air humidity when kept in an apartment is about 60% (for caudiceforms and some others, 40-50%, but not lower). Secondly, all begonias grow on a very loose, well-drained substrate. In the rainforest, the lower tier of herbaceous plants grows on a very airy forest floor, formed mainly by leafy soil, leaf litter and other woody debris. Despite heavy rains, water on such a substrate does not linger for a long time, instantly flows into the lower layers of the soil or flows into streams. And the wind does not allow the moist air to stagnate. Some begonias, as already mentioned, grow in rocky areas, where the water does not stay on the substrate for a long time.Therefore, all begonias are very sensitive to waterlogging. They need good drainage and loose soil. The key to success in growing them is moderate soil moisture (watering only after the soil dries out) and high air humidity.
With regard to light, most begonias adhere to the rule: bright diffused light is good for us, sun and shade are destructive. Various types of begonias are more or less tolerant of the direct sun, but they perceive it favorably in the morning and evening hours. Planted on the south side in apartments or burn out and degenerate. Therefore, the begonias should be shaded from 11 to 17 hours. The eastern and north-western windowsills are optimal. At the same time, begonias cannot be called shade-loving, they are rather shade-tolerant. With a lack of light, the shoots of begonias become bare, the flowering is short and scarce, the color of the leaves is lost. Begonias can especially suffer in winter in conditions of high temperatures and lack of light.
As for temperatures, the species needs are somewhat different, but most prefer the range from 15 to 20 ° C, they do not like extreme heat and cold damp weather (take into account when taking to the garden). Some begonias require a cool wintering (tuberous at 10-12 ° C), others winter well at normal room temperature (many decorative deciduous), if there are no radiators nearby, and a relatively high air humidity is maintained.
Reproduction of begonias is usually not difficult. Most species propagate vegetatively - by stem and leaf cuttings, leaf, part of the leaf, part of the rhizome. To obtain new hybrids and varieties, artificial pollination is used. As for propagation by a leaf, this method is applicable to all begonias that have pubescence on the back of the leaf (like those of the Rex group), begonias that do not have such pubescence are unpromising in leaf propagation, but stem cuttings easily root in water.