Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Unusual color forms of Moraea tricolor

Several years ago the dean of Moraea-growers in the US, Bob Werra, gave me a pot of Moraea tricolor seedlings. He and I both expected them to all be pink, the standard color for that species, and the only color that either of us had ever seen in cultivation. But to my surprise, when they started blooming, they came up in a wide variety of colors: orange, purple, mauve, and various intermediate shades.

Neither of us knows what happened. Bob thought they might be accidental hybrids, but I've tried some cross-breeding experiments with M. tricolor and some related species, and so far the results don't look at all like these flowers.

The other possibility is that these are unusual color forms of M. tricolor. Goldblatt's book The Moraeas of Southern Africa says they can come in shades of pink, yellow, and light purple, so maybe Bob got a batch of seeds that happened to be in mixed colors.

If any Moraea experts have an opinion, I'd love to hear it.

In the meantime, I think they're beautiful, and I'm trying to build up stocks of each color so I can share them.






Moraea MM 12-143

Seed parent: Moraea macronyx
Pollen parent: Moraea tricolor

The parents are both low-growing plants whose flowers last for only a single day. In captivity here in California, they tend to bloom on the first sunny day after they're watered, so I have set my drip irrigation system to water on Friday night, giving me a better chance of seeing flowers when I'm home over the weekend. The plants bloom on and off for several weeks to over a month, in early spring.

Moraea macronyx has a beautiful white and yellow flower:


Moraea tricolor is usually bright pink with yellow nectar guides, and subtle striping on the tepals:


Put them together, and here's what you get: MM 12-143a.


The outer tepals are yellow, with some dark read streaks on them. The inner tepals are are mostly dark red with a yellow background, while the style crests (the upright things in the center) are white, veined with dark mauvey red. It's not exactly beautiful, but I think it's very interesting to see how the colors combine, and I can't wait to see what will happen with further breeding.

These plants bloomed as two-year-old seedlings, still in the seed cup.

MM 12-143b.