The Miracle Man's
By Kit Knotts, Photos by William Phillips and Michael Phillips
Click images to enlarge
It has proven to be the first documented hybrid between subgenera of Nymphaea ever, a feat previously considered impossible. The pod parent is N. 'Andre Leu' of the Australian subgenus Anecphya and the pollen parent is the white form of N. colorata (capensis) of the subgenus Brachyceras.
Because the hybrid looked so promising, to William in person and to friends from images, this writer asked Dr. Donald H. Les, Professor, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, The University of Connecticut, to perform DNA studies on the hybrid and its parents. In early May of 2002, the results were conclusive that this was indeed a true cross.
William related, "Dr. Les explained to me about the nuclear DNA markers in the hybrid which has one set that matches the pod parent and one set that matches the pollen parent. He said that he and all the people who had looked at the DNA markers were very impressed with how clearly they were expressed. They use a process that first identifies DNA marker regions that are unique to each parent. Hybridization is evidenced by the presence of both different parental markers in a single plant. This was the result obtained for material of the Anecphya/Brachyceras cross." The scientific details will be published by Dr. Les in an upcoming journal.
With the goal in mind of producing Australian lilies that are more reliable in cultivation for other growers, William has been able to make a wide variety of crosses between Anecphya types and dreamed of the possibility of a subgeneric cross that would bring Brachyceras robustness to the beauty of Anecphya. Though long considered an impossible cross, William was undaunted in attempts to produce it.
"I remember when he talked to me about trying this cross over lunch in Memphis last year (2001) in an effort to get more reliability into Anecphya. It is quite extraordinary to see that he has achieved the cross so quickly, " says Andre. "The flattened stamens and large colored anthers of this plant and another plant from the batch are not typical for any of the Anecphya that I have seen (I haven't seen all of them). They are more typical of the Brachyceras subgenus of Nymphaea."
It was this initial confidence in and support of the cross by Andre and several others that moved William to seek hard scientific evidence of its veracity. All were elated by the confirmation by Dr. Les. William, recipient of a heart transplant in 1996, (see The Miracle Man) soon shared the news with his transplant team.
"I was showing all the information and letters to my
transplant doctors," William related. "I commented
that it was probably my greatest accomplishment. One doctor said,
"No, being alive is your greatest
The Miracle Man has produced a Miracle Plant that, at the urging of Andre Leu, this writer and others, will carry his name into the history books. The world's first proven intersubgeneric hybrid will be called Nymphaea 'William Phillips'.