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Hostas are found in the wild in Japan, Korea, China and eastern Russia. The first person from Europe who described plants that were later called Hostas was Dr. Engelbert Kaempfer. He did this by the end of the 17th century in Japan. It took almost 100 years before the first seeds came to Europe. Late in the 18th century the first plants were grown from seeds from China in the botanical garden of Paris. In that time they were named Hemerocallis plantaginea. Not much later seeds were also sent from China to London which have proven to be Hosta ventricosa. It is not so amazing that the first Hostas came from China and not from Japan to Europe as more European countries traded with China. Japan had isolated itself from the rest of the world in those days.
In the beginning of the 19th century the name Hostas became the valid name of this group of plants that had been described under several names. The name Hosta is in honor of the Austrian botanist and physician Nicholas Thomas Host. The name Funkia was also introduced in that period but is botanically viewed as not valid. However, in a lot of German speaking countries the name Funkia is still commonly used.
In 1829 the first plants came from Japan to The Netherlands. It was the German scientist, Philipp Franz von Siebold, serving the Dutch East India Company that managed to obtain several different plants and ship them to The Netherlands. Many of these Hostas were planted in the botanic gardens at Antwerp, Gent (Belgium) and Leiden (The Netherlands) and later in the nursery that von Siebold started in Leiden after his time in Japan.
Those plants that came to Europe at that time defined the Hosta selection until the middle of the 20th century, along with a few additions of course. This all changed by the 1960’s when many American Hosta growers and lovers started to hybridize and select new Hostas.
For the last fifty years there has been a large group of Hosta lovers from America, Europe, Japan and New Zealand hybridizing the best new Hostas. Now the Hosta selection has grown from the initial 40 known species to more than 12,500 hybrids and continues to grow…the possibilities are endless!
Copyright © 2023 Kees Henzen
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