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A genus of hybrids between Gaultheria and Pernettya. The plant described here – ‘Wisley Pearl’ – arose in cultivation and is of interest in that it unites a Californian species of Gaultheria with a very dissimilar species of Pernettya from South America. Hybrids between the two genera also occur in the wild. Dr Philipson records (Philipson and Hearn, Rock Garden Plants of the Southern Alps, p. 80) how he discovered a colony of such hybrids in the Southern Alps of New Zealand: ‘I paused to look at one plant [of Gaultheria depressa] that seemed different and saw that its berries instead of being spherical were all shaped like five-pointed stars. Between the spreading fleshy rays was set a globular centre-piece. The whole looked like a flower fashioned in wax, and its beauty was heightened by the delicate shell pink flush that deepened on the broad points of the star.’ The other parent of this gaulnettya was Pernettya nana. Among the other crosses recorded in New Zealand are G. depressa × P. macrostigma and G. antipoda × P. macrostigma. Gaulnettyas have also been found in Central and South America.
It should be noted that the correct name for this hybrid genus is × Gaulnettya Marchant (Choice Trees, Shrubs, 1937). The name was there published with a statement of the parent genera and that is sufficient under the rules of botanical nomenclature (Code, 1966, Art. 40); it has priority over Gaulthettia Camp (1939). But the name × G. wisleyensis has never been validated by a Latin description.
As remarked in the introductory note to Pernettya, that genus and Gaultheria, the two parents of × Gaulnettya, are very closely allied and will probably be formally united under the earlier name Gaultheria. It is not surprising, therefore, that × G. ‘Wisley Pearl’, unlike other bigeneric hybrids in the Ericaceae, is fertile.