Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Looking Back and Looking Ahead... Hybridizing Petrocosmea

If you will allow me to deviate from the thread on P. rosettifolia and it's variations, I had to take a few minutes to update you on the seedlings that are flowering now from last year's crosses and the seedpods that are forming on this years new crosses.

With the year 2009 quickly winding down to it's end, I had to take time today to go back and take another long, careful look at the batches of seedlings that are still flowering in the basement plant room. I've spent the entire year nurturing these precious little plants as they went from seedpod to flowering plants. What great fun this journey has been. I've been priveleged to see some seedlings that no one else has seen and evaluated. That's one of the exciting things about hybridizing in general and hybridizing a largely unexplored genus such as Petrocosmea in particular. I've filled my lightstands, my notebooks, my computer (with notes and photographs) and my trashcan as these seedlings matured, some to reveal "keepers" and some to reveal plants that lacked anything new, attractive, novel, or better than the parents. It is a heartbreaking task, to destroy a seedling that is the result of one's own efforts, but it must be done, and I'm proud to say, I've done it. In the end, I've selected some exciting and promising new hybrids for further evaluation.

I'm enjoying the results of two crosses that are now reaching the peak of bloom. The seedlings are the results of crosses between P. sericea x P. minor veined leaf form, and P. forrestii x duclouxii. Both of these crosses have produced variation in both foliage and flowers.

I've snapped some photos this evening of three of the most desireable from the P. sericea x minor seedlings. Foliage on these three is pretty much intermediate between both parents, but the flowers are showing some nice variation in size and coloration.

Three seedlings I'm keeping for further evaluation from a cross between P. sericea x minor veined leaf form. Note in the photo the variations in color of the petals, and the markings in the throat. The seedling in the middle has a clear demarcation between the clear white throat and the medium purple petals. All three flowers have a deep blackish purple dot in the base of the throat. The one on the right is a dark bluish purple, which the camera did not capture accurately. It is darker and more blue than the photo shows. Also note the large leafy bracts on the flower on the right, compared to the tiny bracts on the other two...this is consistent on all peduncles on this seedlings.

This seedling, the one on the right in the first photo, was the only seedling out of twenty to develop large leafy bracts on the peduncle. The hairs on the calyx lobes are also denser and longer than on other seedlings. It's color is the darkest of all of the seedlings in the batch although this photo makes the flower look much lighter in color than it really is.

This seedling has flowers with a clear, clean white throat that is nicely demarcated from the purple in the petals.

The flower on this seedlings is the largest of the batch of seedlings, and consistently has six petals while most of the other seedlings have five. Peduncles are nice and dark in color and are strong enough to support the large flowers. Bud and bloom count was also high for the parentage of the cross. Both parents are not usually heavy bloomers.

The second cross in flower now is P. forrestii x duclouxii. I have selected two seedlings so far, one of which I have named P. 'Keystone's Angora' due to it's soft, silvery furry leaves...the softest of any Petrocosmea that I have in my collection! Of the three seedlings selected, two have been in flower for a couple of months now and are continuing to produce buds...which bodes well for the flower count. The flowers of these two are quite different in size and show a variation in flower shape each taking after a different parent. See the photo below....
Flowers from two selected seedlings from a cross between P. forrestii and P. duclouxii. The flowers are quite different from each other in size. The flower on the left is from an as yet unnamed seedling that is taking it's plant/leaf size and flower shape and size from the P. duclouxii parent. The flower on the right is from a seedling named P. 'Keystone's Angora'. It's flower size and shape is more like it's P. forrestii parent, although both flower size and plant size is larger than P. forrestii. I attempted to pollinate the flower of P. 'Keystone's Angora' with pollen from P. begoniifolia and have several seedpods. You can see inside the throat of the flower in this photo that a small green seedpod is beginning to enlarge....indicating that it may indeed be fertile as a seed parent. Neither flower produces pollen so cannot be used for further breeding as a pollen parent.
While looking back at the past year's successes and failures is fun, rewarding and educational, I am also quite excited to see many seedpods forming on crosses I've made this flowering season. I noted seedpods forming this evening on the following crosses:
P. forrestii x formosa
P. rosettifolia #3 x minor veined leaf form
P. menglianensis x begoniifolia
P. 'Keystone's Angora' x begoniifolia and
P. 'Rosemary Platz' x (Asa Blue x begoniifolia)
I am transplanting small seedlings from crosses of P. forrestii x minor smooth leaf form and P. forrestii x sericea.
With all of these new crosses forming seedpods, and more plants still to bloom, there are still many exciting possibilities still ahead for the year to come. Wish me luck!