History of gerbera

Gerbera species belong to the basal Mutisieae tribe within the large Asteraceae (or Compositae) plant family. The native distribution of this genus, comprising of ca. 30 species, extends to Africa, Madagascar, tropical Asia and South America. The first official description of the South African species Gerbera jamesonii (see picture), also known as Transvaal daisy or Barberton daisy, was made by J. D. Hooker in 1889 in Curtis Botanical Magazine. It bears a large capitulum with prominent, yellow, orange, white, pink or various red coloured ray florets. The breeding of gerbera started at the end of the 19th century in Cambridge, England when two South African species, G. jamesonii and G. viridifolia, were crossed by R.I. Lynch. He named the hybrid as Gerbera × cantebrigiensis, known today also as Gerbera hybrida.

The majority of the present commercially cultivated varieties originate from the crossing progenies of these two species. Natural hybrids of the two species have not been found. It is possible that also other wild gerbera species have been used in breeding, but for that hardly any information exists. Already at the turn of the century, gerbera was cultivated in England, Belgium, USA, Germany and Italy. Today, gerbera is known as an important article of trade and it belongs to the most important ornamental crops in the world together with rose, chrysanthemum, carnation and tulip.