Saturday, January 14, 2017

Gladiolus MM 10-30

Seed parent: Gladiolus carmineus
Pollen parent: Gladiolus watsonius

The parents:

This was an interesting cross. The seed parent is pink and blooms in Autumn, before the leaves come up, and often before it starts to rain. The pollen parent is scarlet and blooms in late winter. So I was curious to see not just what the flowers would look like, but when they would bloom.


MM 10-30a. The flowers are pinky red, and they bloom in the first half of January, when few other bulbs are in bloom. It's nice to spot these cheerful flowers in a pot when the only things nearby are green leaves.







Sunday, January 8, 2017

Moraea MM 12-52

Seed parent: Moraea speciosa
Pollen parent: Moraea polystacha

The parents:

Moraea polystachya is a blue Iris-shaped flower that blooms vigorously for many months but that (so far) won't cross with the Peacock Moraea species. Moraea speciosa is a desert species that's hard to bloom in my climate. It has large cup-shaped flowers. My photo here is of a semi-double chimera; to see the usual flowers check the PBS listing here.

The shapes of these two flowers are so different that you wouldn't think they even belonged in the same genus, but Prof. Goldblatt, in his book on the Moraeas, reported that they had been successfully crossed. I couldn't find any photos of Moraea speciosa x polystachya online, so I decided to try the cross myself. It worked.

MM 12-52b. As usual with species hybrids, the flower is roughly midway between two two parents. The flowers have the flat face of M. speciosa, and some of the color pattern of M. polystachya. The leaves don't have the curliness of M. speciosa, and the plants tend to flop over (which sometimes happens to M. polystachya when it's reaching for the sun). They bloom in mid-winter (January here), a little later than M. polystachya.



This flower had a reasonable amount of pollen, so I selfed the flower and saved the rest of the pollen for breeding experiments.


MM 12-52a. The look of this particular flower is unspectacular.  It was translucent and held low in the sepals, making it hard for the flower to open fully.

The first two photos were taken at night, when I came home from work and spotted the open flower. There was a rainstorm due, so I did my best to take a clear flash photo. As you can see, one of the inner tepals was curled over. I held it back in the second photo.



The photos below were taken the following morning, after the rain. These are closer to the true color of the flower, but as you can see the flower did not stand up well to the rain.



Here are the plants (which have been wired up because they were flopping).




Saturday, June 25, 2016

Moraea MM 12-176

Seed parent: MM 03-98b (atropunctata X calcicola)
Pollen parent: Moraea neopavonia with blue eye

The parents:


I was hoping for an orange flower with spots, but I got something that looks like a paler form of M. neopavonia with some of the shape of the seed parent. Nice but not terribly inspiring.

MM 12-176a. Both daytime and night photos.



 MM 12-176b. The central cup is much lighter in this one.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Moraea MM 12-192

Seed parent: Moraea lurida
Pollen parent: Moraea villosa form e

The parents:


MM 12-192a. I'm pretty sure this is just an insect-pollinated Moraea lurida rather than a hybrid. It bloomed at the normal time for M. lurida (later than most other Moraea species), and its markings are in the normal range for the color form of M. lurida that I grow.


I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to get hybrids with M. lurida. It's self pollinated very easily by flies (I think that's what happened here), and when I've been careful to exclude flies, the crosses I've made have rarely set any seeds. I have a couple of possible hybrids that haven't yet bloomed, so there's still hope, but as of 2016 they're still at least a couple of years from blooming size.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

New Moraea Hybrids, 2016

For several years I've been experimenting with hybridizing plants in the genus Moraea. This article summarizes my favorite new hybrids from 2016. I'll also discuss what I think I'm learning from these plants.


Lots of dots. My favorite new hybrid this year was an intensely spotted flower produced by crossing Moraea 'Zoe' with Moraea atropunctata. Those flowers both have spots, and the cross between them is almost covered in spots:

Click here to see more photos, including a sibling flower that has a subtly different color pattern.


Bullseye. The other big surprise this year was the flower below. Note the blue and yellow bullseye rings in the center. I've never seen that color pattern in Moraeas before. It's a result of crossing Moraea villosa with Moraea bellendenii

More details here.


Looking for red. I'm continuing my pursuit of a fully red "Peacock" Moraea, and continuing to get shades of mauvey-purpley-orange in the process. This one is a cross between M. neopavonia and M. gigandra. Check out that hypnotic light blue eye.

More photos and a subtly different sibling here.


And this is a cross between M. villosa and M. tulbaghensis. Crossing these species continues to produce interesting colors and patterns, although sadly many of the flowers are cup-shaped and don't show off the colors as well as they could.

Details here.


Other interesting hybrids that bloomed for the first time this year:

Bright clear yellow flowers: MM 12-158.


Moraea tripetala X aristata: MM 12-141


A very floriferous hybrid involving M. bellendenii: 15+ flowers on a single plant. MM 12-119 


Moraea tripetala X neopavonia: MM 112-109


A beautiful M. villosa selection 


You can see more hybrids by clicking on the 2016 links in the archive nav bar at right (if you're reading this on a mobile device, switch to the desktop view to see the sidebar).

I've updated my list of the Moraea species that can cross successfully, here.

I'm on the lookout for more Moraea species. My wish list is here. I'm happy to trade!


Things I'm learning

Raised beds versus pots: The raised beds are winning (so far). Most of my bulb collection is in pots, but two years ago I started experimenting with raised beds. This year the difference between the beds and pots was striking. My Moraea plants in pots usually get some die-back of their leaf tips, starting in early spring. As much as half of the leaf can turn brown. In the raised beds, there was almost no leaf dieback at all. The leaves stayed long and lush until late spring, when the plants started to go dormant.
I now have two beds (one 24' x 3', the other 24' x 4'; that's about 1m x 8m if you think metric). One bed is two years old, the other one year old. You can see more details here.

In addition to the good leaf growth, there were also strong blooms from some of the bulbs in the older bed, although most of the plants in both beds are still 1-2 years away from blooming.

I built two more raised beds this spring, so I have a lot of planting to do this summer. I will try to get some individuals of every species into the beds, so I can compare their growth to the pots (also, that gives me insurance in case they die out in one place). The beds are also turning out to be the place where I grow the hybrids to blooming size.

Veteran growers tell me that bulbs in beds often decline after several years. I'm hoping that won't happen here.


Maybe the pot problem isn't soil. I've had inconsistent blooms from my potted Moraeas in the last several years. Sometimes they bloom well, and sometimes they seem to sulk. I thought maybe the problem was changes in my potting mix (I can't get the same sand that I used in past years, and the texture of the peat I use has also changed). I have experimented now with several different mixes, and the results are still inconsistent. So now starting to wonder if the issue is more about temperature and watering. The potted bulbs that get the most sun had mediocre bloom this year, even those that had fresh soil in them. Meanwhile, plants in raised beds with the exact same soil mix did very well.

Probably the next thing I should try with the pots is a plunge bed, to moderate their temperature and reduce swings in moisture. But that's a pain in the neck to build, and I'm trying to reduce my workload, not increase it. We'll see what I have the time to do this summer.


Moraea bellendenii hybridizes with the Peacock Moraeas. This is the first year I got blooms from M. bellendenii crosses, and from the look of them they definitely are hybrids. M. bellendenii is taller and blooms later than the typical Peacock Moraea, and also it's yellow. So it gives some interesting new characteristics that I can mix into the hybrids.


The jury is still out on Moraea lurida. I've now gotten flowers from several crosses I made onto M. lurida, and so all look exactly like M. lurida. Flies are strongly attracted to M. lurida in my part of California, and I think they probably selfed the plants. I have tried some crosses of M. lurida pollen on other species, but until this year none of them had set fertile seeds. (M. lurida blooms later than the other Moraeas, so to make crosses with its pollen I have to store the pollen for 11 months.) This year for the first time I got some seeds using stored lurida pollen, so there may still be hope for a hybrid. I'll know in a few years.


I don't understand the genetics for yellow. A few years ago I started getting occasional yellow offspring when I crossed hybrids that had orange and cream colored flowers in their ancestry. Great, I thought, the yellow color is a recessive gene that shows up when you dilute the orange genes. But then I crossed a yellow and a cream colored flower, and this year it produced a light orange flower (link). That implies that the gene(s) for orange were still present in the yellow flower. So what is it that makes a Moraea flower yellow? Is there a separate gene that switches off the orange color, or that converts orange to yellow?

A post in Darren Abbey's excellent blog talks about how the combination of pH and pigment can alter the color of plants. I wonder if something like that might be involved. Maybe if I spend enough time reading his blog I'll be able to figure it out.

Crosses between Moraea and Homeria continue to be hard to achieve. Last year I had flowers from my first successful cross using Moraea pollen on a Homeria plant (MM 11-91). That cross produced just a few seeds, one of which grew into a Homeria plant and two into hybrids. I theorized that a small amount of Homeria pollen had gotten onto the flower, causing it to set seeds with the Moraea pollen as well. So this year I experimented with using heat treatment in a microwave oven to kill Homeria pollen, then applying a mix of the killed Homeria pollen and Moraea pollen to the Homerias.

I'm told this approach works in some other genera. But I made about 20 crosses this way, and none of them set any seeds at all.

Next year I'll experiment with very small amounts of live Homeria pollen.

(By the way, crosses using Homeria pollen on Morea plants haven't produced viable crosses so far. I'm still trying, though.)


Trends I'm seeing in Moraea hybridization:
  • Crossing an orange plant and a purple plant still usually produces a light orange plant, but infrequently you get a mauvey-purple one that looks a bit reddish.
  • Crossing anything with M. tripetala usually produces a flower that's shaped a lot like tripetala, but often the colors are dominated by the other parent.
  • Crossing anything with M. tulbaghensis almost always produces relatively small, cup-shaped flowers.
  • Crossing anything with M. villosa often produces flowers that look very much like M. villosa.
  • Crosses with M. atropunctata often have thick, relatively short stems. They resist falling over in the rain.
  • Crosses with M. gigandra sometimes have tall thin stems, and can easily fall over in rain or wind. (Which makes me wonder, if I cross atropunctata and gigandra, can I get a tall plant with a thick stem? I made three such crosses in 2012, but they haven't bloomed yet.)

Monday, May 30, 2016

Hybridizing Moraea Species: 2016 Status

The list below shows Moraea species crosses I've attempted as of spring 2016. As you'll see, I have focused mostly on the very colorful "peacock" Moraea species and their relatives (technically, subgenus Vieusseuxia). There are more than 40 species in the subgenus, but I've been able to obtain and grow only about 15 of them so far (if you know how to get the others, please let me know).

I have also experimented with crossing a few other flowers in other parts of the genus.

Let's start with a summary chart of the Vieusseuxia crosses:


Here's what I think I've learned so far: Most of the Vieusseuxia species that I've tested are willing to cross with each other. The big exception is M. lurida, which appears to be pretty reluctant to cross with anything else. It may be willing to cross with M. bellendenii.

My most surprising result, which isn't shown in the chart, is that I've been able to cross a species in subgenus Homeria with Moraea villosa (you'll find a link to that cross in the list below). I didn't expect the cross to work, and it opens up a number of other interesting possibilities.


More details on the crosses. The list below shows every cross that produced seed. In the notes, "not viable" means the seeds looked at least marginally good enough to plant, but the seeds either did not sprout, or the seedlings died.

Homeria sp. (probably M. flaccida) X
     villosa. 1 bloomed: MM 11-91.

Moraea aristata X
     atropunctata. 2 crosses, have not yet bloomed.
     bellendenii. 1 cross, seed not viable.
     calcicola. 1 cross, successful: MM 03-04.
     gigandra. 2 crosses. 1 not viable, 1 bloomed: MM 11-28.
     longiaristata (?). 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.
     loubseri. 1 cross, bloomed: MM 09-01.
     lurida. 1 cross, not viable.
     neopavonia. 5 crosses, 2 not viable, 1 died, 2 not yet bloomed.
     tripetala. 1 cross, not viable.
     tulbaghensis. 4 crosses, all viable. 1 has bloomed: MM 10-37.
     villosa. 9 crosses, 8 viable. 3 have bloomed: MM 09-02MM 10-39MM 11-19.

Moraea atropunctata X
     aristata. 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.
     bellendenii. 1 cross, seed not viable.
     calcicola. 1 cross, bloomed: MM 03-98.
     gigandra. 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.
     longiaristata(?). 1 cross, seed not viable.
     loubseri. 1 cross, seed not viable.
     neopavonia (?). 2 crosses, 1 not viable, 1 bloomed: MM 99-00.
     tripetala. 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.
     tulbaghensis. 1 cross, seed not viable.
     villosa. 2 crosses. 1 not viable, 1 has not yet bloomed.

Moraea bellendenii X
     aristata. 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.
     longiaristata (?). 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.
     loubseri. 1 cross, seed not viable.
     lurida. 2 crosses. 1 not viable, 1 has not yet bloomed.
     neopavonia. 2 crosses, 1 died, 1 not yet bloomed.
     tripetala. 1 cross, seed not viable.
     villosa. 5 crosses, 3 not viable, 2 have not yet bloomed.

Moraea calcicola X
     neopavonia. 2 crosses, 1 not viable, 1 has not yet bloomed.

Moraea collina (yellow) X
     elegans. 1 bloomed: MM 12-23.

Moraea elegans X
     flaccida (orange and yellow form). 1 cross, seed not viable.
     collina (yellow). 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.

Moraea fergusoniae. I tried for a couple of years to cross this species with the Vieusseuxia Moraeas, but had zero success.

Moraea flaccida X
     polystachya. 1 cross, turned out to be self-pollinated M. flaccida.
     elegans. 1 cross, turned out to be M. flaccida.

Moraea gigandra X
     aristata. 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.
     atropunctata. 3 crosses, 2 viable, have not yet bloomed.
     bellendenii. 2 crosses. 1 not viable, 1 has not yet bloomed.
     calcicola. 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.
     collina (?). 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.
     loubseri. 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.
     neopavonia. 3 crosses, 2 have not yet bloomed, 1 bloomed: MM 12-144.
     tripetala. 1 cross, not viable.
     tulbaghensis. 3 crosses, all viable. 1 bloomed: MM 10-04.
     villosa. 9 crosses, 8 viable. 1 has bloomed: MM 11-17.

Moraea longiaristata (?) X
     aristata. 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.
     calcicola. 1 cross, not viable.
     neopavonia. 2 crosses, 1 not viable, 1 has not yet bloomed.
thomasiae. 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.
     villosa. 2 crosses, have not yet bloomed.

Moraea loubseri X
     atropunctata. 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.
     gigandra, 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.
     neopavonia. 2 crosses, 1 has not yet bloomed, 1 bloomed: MM 12-49.
     tripetala. 1 cross, not viable.
     tulbaghensis. 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.
     villosa. 3 crosses, 1 not viable, 2 have not yet bloomed.

Moraea lurida X
     fergusoniae. 1 cross, not viable.
     neopavonia. 2 crosses, 1 not viable. 1 has not yet bloomed (high risk of pollination with other lurida flowers).
     tripetala. 1 cross, has not yet bloomed (high risk of pollination with other lurida flowers).
     tulbaghensis. 1 cross, has not yet bloomed. High risk of pollination with other lurida flowers.
     villosa. 2 crosses, 1 has not yet bloomed, 1 looks selfed: MM 12-192. High risk of pollination with other lurida flowers.
Note: In my area, M. lurida is aggressively pollinated by flies. In my early crosses I didn't realize this, and did not protect the flowers from cross-pollination from other M. lurida. I have since tried to re-create the same crosses while protecting the plants from flies, and there has been almost zero seed set. So I suspect the earlier crosses, but I will not know for sure until they bloom.

Moraea neopavonia X
     aristata. 2 crosses, have not yet bloomed.
     atropunctata. 3 crosses, have not yet bloomed.
     calcicola. 2 crosses, have not yet bloomed.
     gigandra. 3 crosses, have not yet bloomed.
     loubseri. 3 crosses, 1 not viable, 2 have not yet bloomed.
     tripetala. 2 crosses, 1 not viable, 1 has not yet bloomed.
     tulbaghensis. 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.
     villosa. 7 crosses, 1 awaiting germination, 5 have not yet bloomed, 1 has bloomed: MM 03-99.

Moraea polystachya X
     aristata. 1 cross, not viable.
     atropunctata. 1 cross, not viable.
     thomasiae. 2 crosses, both awaiting germination.
I've made many other attempts to cross M. polystachya with the Peacocks, but didn't bother to write them down after it became clear that they were all failures. I still try occasionally,  because it would be great to get peacock colors on this very vigorous plant. Alas, I think it's not to be.

Moraea speciosa X
     polystachya. 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.

Moraea thomasiae. I just got this species to bloom, and tried my first pollination experiments with it. It's too early to say anything about the results.

Moraea tricolor X
     macronyx. 2 crosses. 1 not viable, 1 bloomed: MM 12-143.

Moraea tripetala X
     aristata. 3 crosses, 2 have not yet bloomed, 1 bloomed: MM 12-141.
     bellendenii. 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.
     calcicola. 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.
     gigandra. 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.
     loubseri. 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.
     longiaristata(?). 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.
     neopavonia. 3 crosses, 1 not viable, 1 has not yet bloomed, 1 bloomed: MM 12-109.
     tulbaghensis. 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.
     villosa. 4 crosses, none have bloomed yet.

Moraea tulbaghensis X
     atropunctata. 2 crosses, not yet bloomed.
     longiaristata (?). 1 cross, not viable.
     loubseri. 2 crosses, not viable.
     tripetala. 1 cross, not viable.
     villosa. 9 crosses. 2 not viable, 6 not yet bloomed, 1 bloomed: MM 11-72.

Moraea vegeta X
     macronyx. 1 cross, has not yet bloomed.

Moraea villosa X
     aristata. 3 crosses. 1 not viable, 1 not yet bloomed, 1 bloomed: MM 11-31.
     atropunctata. 4 crosses. 1 not viable, 3 not yet bloomed
     bellendenii. 2 crosses, 1 has not yet bloomed, 1 bloomed: MM 12-118.
     calcicola. 3 crosses. 1 not viable, 2 not yet bloomed
     gigandra. 6 crosses. 3 not viable, 2 not yet bloomed, 1 bloomed: MM 11-24.
     homeria sp. 3 crosses, not yet bloomed
     longiaristata (?). 1 cross, not yet bloomed
     loubseri. 4 crosses. 2 not viable, 2 not yet bloomed
     lurida. 1 cross, not viable
     neopavonia. 5 crosses. 4 not viable, 1 not yet bloomed
     tripetala. 5 crosses. 3 not viable, 2 not yet bloomed
     tulbaghensis. 17 crosses. 2 not viable, 13 not yet bloomed, 2 bloomed: MM 11-140MM 10-02.
Note: In case you're wondering why I made so many crosses with M. villosa, it's because there are so many color forms of that species.

Moraea Wish List

I am trying to collect as many species as possible from subspecies Vieusseuxia, because it includes the Peacock Moraeas (the most colorful in the genus) and because most of the Vieusseuxias I've tried can interbreed. So I want to both preserve these plants in cultivation and see how they combine together.

I haven't been able to find sources for the species below. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. I'm happy to trade.

Moraea algoensis
Moraea amabilis
Moraea amissa
Moraea barkerae
Moraea barnardii
Moraea caeca
Moraea cantharophila
Moraea cuspidata
Moraea debilis
Moraea deltoidea
Moraea gigandra (orange, white forms)
Moraea grandis
Moraea hainebachiana
Moraea helmei
Moraea incurva
Moraea insolens (orange, white forms)
Moraea lilacina
Moraea lurida (orange, purple, white forms)
Moraea longiaristata
Moraea mutila
Moraea ogamana
Moraea petricola
Moraea regalis
Moraea rivulicola
Moraea tulbaghensis (white form)
Moraea villosa ssp elandsmontana
Moraea worcesterensis