Gerbers, Gerbers everywhere, a genus named from Dutch thin air. The Gerber Daisy or more accurately Gerbera is one of the ten most important cut flowers in the world. Next to Roses, Chrysanthemums, Carnations and Tulips, Gerbera has long been a lucrative flower for growers. Although this jolly cut flower is standard inventory for florists, ubiquitously featured in art and fashion, no one really knows why it’s called Gerbera.
Historians do know that it is named after the German naturalist Traugott Gerber (1710 – 1743), who was well known for starting a medical garden in Moscow. Even in his short-lived 33 years on Earth, Gerber made significant contributions harvesting a growing class of doctors in 18th century Moscow. Apparently smitten with the accomplishments of Traugott Gerber, his compatriot Jan Frederic Gronovius honored this genus of the Asteraceae family, Gerbera. Just why Gronovius chose to name the flower after Gerber continues to be a historical oddity.1
A member of the largest plant order in botany, Gerberas have the trademark capitulum or florets of the Asteraceae family. The species reproduces asexually from the hundreds of little potential flowers at its center. Recently, Gerbera breeders have cultivated varieties with both black capitulums, known as Black Hearts, and green (yellowish-green) centers, known as, Green Hearts.
The color variety of the flower itself ranges in yellows, oranges, creams, whites, pinks, lavender, reds, brick reds, scarlets, salmon, maroon, terracotta and numerous shades in-between. There is also a spattering of bi-colored Gerberas; some that even have a stone-washed look. There are nearly 40 species of Gerbera, 13 of which are native to South Africa alone, the remaining being native to Madagascar, Asia and Northern Africa.2
Although officially named in 1737, the Gerbera was first described scientifically by J.D. Hooker in 1889, profiling the Gerbera Jamesonii (Transvaal Daisy or Barberton Daisy) from South Africa.3 The Gerbera Jamesonii is the more common variety seen. Its sub-species range in unique ways from Gerberas with thin petals pointing out like a star, the fully formed circle of petals, as well as confetti-like gerberas.
The Gerbera is perhaps an image most people conjure up in their minds when thinking of a daisy. This may be a visual confusion with the “common daisy”, or Bellis genus with its yellow capitulum and surrounding white petals. It’s all in the same family as the Asteraceae Family is often simply called the aster family, daisy family, or sunflower family.
Gerberas are quite the prima donnas among daisies when handled by cut flower wholesalers and florists. The delicate Gerberas require special attention and extra steps are taken to ensure the longevity of their loveliness. Gerbers are shipped in specialized boxes by wholesalers, then processed and stored by Florists so that each individual Gerber stem has support.
Care for Gerbera Cut Flowers
There are some extra care steps you can take to prolong the life of cut gerberas according to Rod Jones’s Caring for Cut Flowers4:
1) Don’t use flower preservative solution (flower food), as this may do more damage than good with Gerberas.
2) When caring for white, yellow and pale pink Gerberas, keep in mind that browning on the petals can occur due to fluoride damage. Unfortunately, most city tap water is treated with fluoride, so it’s necessary to give Gerberas deionised water, rainwater or filtered spring water.
3) While not entirely heliotropic (like budding Sunflowers), Gerberas have a natural inclination towards sunlight. Keeping a rein on this will help keep their stems straight and strong; accomplished by placing the stem in a floral tube or wrapping the stems in thin wire.
4) When choosing to use Gerberas in cut flower arrangements, however temping it is, the stems will quickly rot in floral foam. Its performance in the arrangements is short lived, as the heads will flop over in just 2 – 3 days.
Decorative Tips for Gerbera Flowers
As the web guide to everything floral, www.theflowerexpert.com mentions, the meanings behind gerbera flowers are similar to its daisy affiliation, including “innocence and purity.” Though, the Gerbera has an added dimension of cheerfulness, with its bounty of vivid colors.5
You can often find a single, colorful, Gerbera head floating gently in a glass bowl at Mainstreet Flower Market in Parker, CO. This simple, yet chic display not only allows the full color and shape of the Gerber flower to be realized, but lengthens the flower’s life by several days. This is just one simple idea for decorating with and caring for Gerberas, and there are several equally unique varieties to play with. For instance; Mini Gerberas have the full color and vibrancy of the regular Gerbera flowers, yet offer a compact variety advantageous to lots of arranging and decorative ideas. This week Mainstreet Flower Market has Mini Gerberas on special, so it’s worth stopping in to see what more you can do.
2) Sheela, V.L., Flowers for Trade: Vol. 10., New India Publishing, 2008, pg. 159
3) Botanics: Webster’s Quotations, Facts and Phrases, Icon Group International, Inc., 2008, pg. 20
4) Jones, Rod, Caring for Cut Flowers, Landlinks Press, 2001, pg. 95