Zygocactus or christmas cactus for our northern hemisphere friends have been grown in Australia since before my grandmothers day. They were the usual red and mauve varieties and hung in baskets under trees, on the verandah (porch) or in shadehouses.
These were the original South American varieties and while spectacular in colour were limited to a few days flowering.
Zygocactus or schlumbergera stock plants in flower
In the 1960's a young man named B.L. (Larry) Cobia began breeeding zygo's in Florida and before too long new colours with longer flowering times started to come onto the market.
In these days Australian Quarantine restrictions limited the number to a few cuttings that could be brought in at a time and it took a number of years before they could be propagated into commercial quantities and released on the Australian market.
Larry Cobia was a family historian or genealogist and he applied the principles of genetics to his breeding program. Weeding out the weak characteristics year after year, crossing and re crossing until a superior specimen resulted.
The variety of zygocactus he selected was schlumbergera truncatus. It was later selected by other international breeders and these varieties form the bulk of the commercial varieties grown around the world today.
Of the earlier Cobia varieties the most striking were White Christmas, Red Radiance and Lavender Doll.
In the 1980's Larry Cobia bred the world's first yellow zygo called Gold Charm and it set the world on fire. Everyone wanted a yellow zygo.
Graeme and Tony Brindley heard whispers on the grapevine so flew to Florida in 1984 and met with the Cobia family. Larry didn't just have new zygo's he also had a range of other new foliage plants unknown in Australia at this time. After a few days Brindley's Nurseries secured the maximum 12 cuttings of Gold Charm and several other foliage plants including syngonium, peporaniums and crypthanthus to take back to Australia.
Gold Charm was the first yellow zygo, however, it was a pale yellow and tended to go pinkish in colder weather which always coincided with flowering time.
Graeme and Tony Brindley continued making regular trips to Florida seeking new plants for the Australian marketplace. Towards the end of the 1980's Australia was talking about introducing Plant Breeder's Rights and Cobia were releasing even more new zygo's.
Brindley's Nurseries secured the Australian and New Zealand rights to Cobia's zygo's. The larger flowering varieties were marketed under the Showcase Zygo TM name and the improved regular varieties marketed under the Zygo Fantasies TM name. The intention was to release new varieties each year in Australia.
The Cobia nursery company was eventually sold and later closed down. Graeme Brindley under the tutorage of Larry Cobia has continued on breeding new zygocactus varieties for Australia.
As this website develops follow the links to the various Cobia varieties sold in Australia, both old and new along with some other commercial varieties from other breeders.
Zygocactus Gold Charm. The first yellow schlumbergera.