Kewpie - a Chimera


We’re used to oleanders always looking the same, or we wish that they did. But even in normal cases, we have experienced that enormous differences in the color or even the form of the blossom can arise, depending upon the light, the temperature, or the season. This often makes identification difficult.


Hardly anyone knows what a “chimera” is, especially with regard to oleanders. Our goal here, therefore, is to make our oleander enthusiasts better acquainted with the phenomenon of chimeras.


This characteristic is especially noticeable when a plant, in this case the oleander ‘Kewpie’, is a chimera. Simply stated: a chimera occurs as a spontaneous genetic mutation in one portion of an otherwise normal plant.  The result may be a plant with blossoms of several colors. Normally, most new oleanders are the result of hybridization (through pollination) between two different plants. (Robert Newding: The Long Way Home).


Elizabeth Head was already aware that the peculiar character of the new oleander variety was owing to it being a chimera: “. . . We were told that we would need to propagate about 4 different consecutive propagations to be sure that the variety would be a permanent variety and not revert back to its (?) original form since it did show some plain and some variegated flowers.  We always chose the plants that retained the most variations [sic] and so decided after a lot of propagations that it seemed to be permanent . . . ” 


Robert Newding explained as well that ‘Kewpie’ is a chimera like ‘Harriet Newding’. That is, the plant is by its very nature genetically unstable. At any time and on any part of the shrub, even on the same twig, the flowers can look different than the well-known variegated ones. 


The Variability in Flower Shape and Color

Oleander 'Kewpie' , Oleander Haus
Oleander 'Kewpie' , Oleander Haus
Oleander 'Kewpie' , Oleander Haus

That is how we know our ‘Kewpie’ and how we want her to look: the classic, large blossoms shaped like pinwheels, the petals narrow and spiraling outwards, with pronounced variegation (heavily striped with pink and white).

Oleander 'Kewpie' , Oleander Haus
Oleander 'Kewpie' , Oleander Haus
Oleander 'Kewpie' , Oleander Haus

But they can appear different. The striping remains, the corona type stays the same, but the blossoms are more rounded; no longer pinwheels. However, one can still easily recognize ‘Kewpie’. 

Oleander 'Kewpie' , Oleander Haus
Oleander 'Kewpie' , Oleander Haus
Oleander 'Kewpie' , Oleander Haus

And  here? If we didn’t know that we were looking at ‘Kewpie’, or if these flowers were not on the same bush or on the same branch, we could easily believe, at first glance, that this is simply a pink oleander. The third photo shows a mixed form; it looks like ‘Kewpie’ but is just a solid pink. 

In general, one must say about the color pink, with regard to ‘Kewpie’, that it is a pink which tends toward magenta. 


Chimera (Genetics)       Chimeras occur among plants, animals and humans.

„The term ‘chimera’, in medicine and biology, refers to an organism which contains divergent cells and/or tissues and yet represents a homogeneous individual. [1]. The divergent cells of such a chimeric organism originate from different fertilized egg cells [2]. Whether the divergent cells are from  

 individuals of the same species or from different species is irrelevant with regard to the definition. Chimeras must be distinguished from mosaics, in that . . .“

(Wikipedia english )

Oleander Haus / Oleander 'Kewpie'  / Rose chimera
Two-colored rose chimera


Oktober 2020, Oleander Haus

Translation: James Nicholas


       To: The History of KEWPIE

 To: The Oleander Fairytale