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A short note on the origins of Philodendron 'Soledad'

Last Edit: 2014/7/25

Philodendron Soledad.

For more images of this hybrid, click here.

There are certain hybrids in the trade that used to be widely circulated or well-known but are not currently widely available. They seem to linger on mostly because of their beauty to avid collectors of the group, and layers of mystery sometimes surrounds their original heritage and history.

Such is the case with Philodendron 'Soledad', which is frequently compared in forums and websites to the equally gorgeous Philodendron 'Evansii', although many have wondered over its true parentage and history. As it turns out, this handsome hybrid has quite a few things in common with P. 'Evansii' beyond the large, long wavy leaves that both unfurl in their daily quest to follow the sun.

P.' Evansii' was introduced to the world in 1952 by the Evans and Reeves Nurseries, and it was the result of a cross between P. bipinnatifidum and P. speciosum. The tale of its origin and history was detailed in a previous note, and no one person loomed larger in its story than the legendary nurseryman Morgan "Bill" Evans.

By comparison, P. 'Soledad' was developed by Dawn Hunter-Clark and her father Jerry Hunter and introduced exactly 3 decades later in 1982 by Rancho Soledad Nurseries, and it was a cross between a 70 year old Philodendron lundii (which is reportedly still alive and well) and a Philodendron stenolobum*, which explains the somewhat narrower leaves of this stunning hybrid when compared to the former.

The human connection between P. 'Evansii' and P. 'Soledad' becomes evident when one reads about the life of Jerry Hunter, who was the founder of Rancho Soledad Nurseries, and whose parents owned San Diego's famed Rosecroft Gardens in the shadow of Mount Soledad. After earning a degree in Ornamental Horticulture from UCLA in 1950, he founded Mt. Soledad Nursery in 1954 and added 25 acres in rural Rancho Santa Fe - Rancho Soledad - in 1960. Jerry was the dean of California landscape architects, holding license #33, and his mentors included such giants of the profession as Roland Hoyt and Morgan "Bill" Evans of P. 'Evansii' fame. Jerry Hunter also visited Roberto Burle Marx at his home in Brazil, where he perhaps marvelled at the unrivaled Meconostigma collection of the famous plantsman.

Unfortunately, Jerry Hunter passed away on September 28, 2012, but his and his daughter Dawn Hunter-Clark's legacy as the originators of Philodendron 'Soledad' will surely live on.

* Although reported as P. williamsii, it should be noted most P. stenolobum forms at one time were mis-identified as P. williamsii.

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