A genetic oddity

Canna_Cleopatra1
Chimeric flowers of Canna ‘Yellow King Humbert’, also known as Canna ‘Cleopatra’

After a week of feverish preparation, Hurricane Florence has arrived in North Carolina.  Initial forecasts suggested that the storm would pass right over my garden, but according to the current track, it will follow a wide arc around our area, reserving its full fury for the coastal plain and North Carolina/South Carolina border.  So far, we’ve had nothing more than than some blustery wind and about 2 inches of rain, and the only damage has been a couple of stems of Canna ‘Yellow King Humbert’ that blew over.

Which gives me a segue into a post I have been meaning to complete for most of the summer…

Canna_Cleopatra5

 

Canna ‘Yellow King Humbert’ is one of the more unusual plants in my garden, a genetic oddity that is widely available from commercial nurseries (often under the later synonym, Canna ‘Cleopatra’).  This heirloom Canna was first described in the late 1920s as a sport of Canna ‘Roi Humbert’, a bronze-leaved clone with large red flowers.  The sport was described as having green leaves with yellow flowers spotted with red/orange.

It’s not clear to me if the original Canna ‘Yellow King Humbert’ sport was a chimera, a plant containing cells with two distinct genotypes, but chimerism seems to be its major selling point today.  The plants are a mixture of  cells of ‘Yellow King Humbert’ and cells corresponding to the original ‘Roi Humbert.’  The foliage is split into sectors of green and bronze in varying proportions.

Canna_Cleopatra-foliage1

Each bronze leaf sector is connected to the rhizome by a strip of pigmented tissue that has grown from the chimeric meristem.  When the bronze cells extend into the inflorescence, red flowers are produced.  Green cells produce the yellow flowers.  The same inflorescence can produce both red and yellow flowers, or individual flowers can be split between the two colors.

Canna_Cleopatra3
Red and yellow flowers on separate branches of the same inflorescence

To grow your own chimeric Canna, search for ‘Yellow King Humbert’ or ‘Cleopatra,’ but beware that Canna ‘Cleopatre’ is a completely different clone.  Also be aware that some of the ‘Yellow King Humbert’ for sale seem to be the stabilized yellow form, or a different but similar clone.  Most of the plants sold as Canna ‘Cleopatra’ do seem to be the chimera, but it is probably worth confirming before buying.  The nursery from which I obtained my plant recommends pulling up and discarding any all-green stems to retain the chimeric traits.  I’m not sure if that’s necessary, but it probably wouldn’t hurt.

Canna_Cleopatra2

Advertisements

Hurricane lily

Lycoris radiata radiata

While we wait to see what impact Hurricane Florence will have in our part of the piedmont, here is an appropriate flower.  Lycoris radiata var. radiata goes by various common names, including surprise lily and red spider lily, but I prefer hurricane lily.  These bulbs consistently bloom about ten days later than my other L. radiata var. radiata, suggesting that they’re a distinct clone.

Fasciated Lilium formosanum

fasciated1
Fasciated Lilium formosanum with 18 flowers on a single stem

Lilium formosanum, a species from Taiwan, is one of the best lily species for piedmont gardens.  It thrives in our hot and humid summers, producing large, fragrant trumpet flowers in August, and seems immune to most of the common garden pests (though emerging stems are occasionally nibbled by rabbits in early spring). It spreads slowly by seed without becoming a pest.

Back in June, I mentioned a fasciated specimen of L. formosanum that is growing in my garden.  Fasciated plants, if they bloom, often have overcrowded inflorescences bearing dwarfed flowers, but when this L. formosanum finally bloomed, it had eighteen flowers which were normal size and nicely spread out.  The abnormally thickened stem supported them without staking, and the hundreds of miniaturized leaves looked more like fur than the usual widely spaced foliage.

fasciated2
Fasciated L. formosanum, side view

The fasciated plant bloomed at 95 cm tall (150+ cm for normal plants) and had eighteen flowers (1-5, normal).  The stem was 12 cm across at the widest point (1 cm, normal) with leaves 6-12 cm long and 0.5 cm wide (15-18 cm long, 1 cm wide, normal).  Although fasciation in lilies is often temporary, reverting to normal growth in subsequent years, this plant also showed some characteristics suggestive of fasciation last year.  I have some hope that it will continue to grow in this manner in the future.

normal
A clump of normal L. formosanum stems

Lycoris hybrids

We’re at about the mid-point of Lycoris season in my garden.  L. longituba, L. squamigera, and the early L. radiata var. pumila have finished flowering.  L. radiata var radiata and L. x albiflora are still a couple of weeks from blooming. This week, it was the turn of two very interesting hybrids.

Lycoris_satsumhiryu
Lycoris ‘Satsumhiryu’

Lycoris ‘Satsumhiryu’ is probably the most intensely colored Lycoris in my collection.  Its fairly large flowers are an incredible, saturated red-purple color with metallic blue highlights.  I haven’t been able to find much information on this Japanese hybrid, but judging by the flower color and shape, its parentage surely includes Lycoris radiata and Lycoris sprengeri.

Lycoris_mystery1
Mystery Lycoris

In late 2013, I purchased a bulb of the common, pink Lycoris squamigera from a well-known nursery in the Raleigh area.  The foliage produced in the spring of 2014 was consistent with L. squamigera, but when the plant bloomed in August, 2014, I had quite a surprise.  Instead of being pink, the flowers have a yellow base color overlaid with reddish pigment. Darker stripes decorate the backs of the sepals and petals.

The amount of red pigment seems quite variable, depending on the age of the flowers and the amount of sun they receive.  Sometimes pale yellow predominates:

Lycoris-mystery2
Mystery Lycoris in 2014

And sometimes the red/orange pigment is very strong.

Lycoris-mystery3
Mystery Lycoris in 2015

I contacted the nursery owner, thinking that perhaps tags had been switched, but he didn’t recognize the plant.  His best guess was that it arrived incognito in a shipment of L. squamigera bulbs from Holland, although how such a striking plant ended up among L. squamigera is a mystery.  The closest match I have found is L. x chejuensis, a natural hybrid involving L. chinensis (yellow) and L. sanguinea (orange).  To see L. x chejuensis, scroll to the bottom of this Japanese Lycoris website.  Perhaps my plant is a garden hybrid of the same parents, but if so, who made the cross and how did it end up in a batch of L. squamigera?

Whatever its identity really is, I really hit the jackpot with this bulb.

Six on Saturday #33 (August 11, 2018)

After several weeks, I finally have time to complete a Six on Saturday post.  This week’s entry is a miscellaneous collection of plants that bloom during the hottest days of summer.

1. Rhexia species (Meadow Beauty)

Rhexia1

This is basically a weed that infests my bog garden and mini-bog planters.  It spreads by underground rhizomes which must have arrived, unnoticed, in the pot of some pitcher plant or orchid.  The flowers are very showy, but like those of many other Melastomataceae, they only last one day. The petals don’t wilt or shrivel as the flower ages; by late afternoon, a gentle tap will cause them to simply fall off.

2. Iris dichotoma (vesper iris)

Iris_dichotoma

I bought this plant last autumn, so this summer is the first time it has bloomed.  The flowers are significantly smaller than I was expecting, but they are quite attractive.  As suggested by its common name, this is an evening/night-blooming plant.  The flowers open in late afternoon and have faded by the next morning.

3. Iris x norrisii ‘Wine and Roses’ (candy lily)

Pardacanda

Obviously, the “lily” in the common name of this plant is a misnomer.  It is a hybrid of Iris dichotoma (vesper iris) and Iris domestica (blackberry lily).  You’ll often find it in the plant trade labeled as x Pardacanda norrisii, because I. dichotoma was formerly classified as Pardanthopsis dichotoma, and I. domestica was formerly Belamcanda chinensis.  The hybrid grex is quite variable, and I really like the bicolored flowers of this clone.

4. Bouvardia ternifolia (firecracker bush)

Bouvardia1

This is a difficult flower to photograph, because digital cameras often overexpose strong reds, and the flowers stick out in all directions, making focusing a challenge.  I think the exposure of this picture is OK, although it may still appear oversaturated on some monitors.  The flowers really are as intensely red as they could possibly be.

B. ternifolia is native to Mexico and Central America, and at the northern edge of its range reaches southern Arizona, New Mexico, and southwest Texas.  I didn’t really expect it to survive in our much wetter and colder climate, but it has now made it through four winters with numerous cold snaps and snowfalls.  In warmer climates it grows as a shrub.  Here in NC, it dies back to the ground every winter, sprouting again in late spring and blooming from July until the first autumn frost.  I have it planted in a particularly dry and sandy part of the garden.

5. Hemerocallis ‘Autumn Minaret’

autumn_minaret

‘Autumn Minaret’ is a hybrid of the very tall Hemerocallis citrina (syn. H. altissima) and sometimes masquerades as the species.  I really like its tall, airy inflorescences and the fact that it blooms over a very long period (for a daylily). My plant has been blooming for about a month, and the >5′ (152 cm) inflorescences still have many unopened buds.  I recently obtained a small plant of the true H. citrina, so it will be interesting to compare the two in future summers.

6. Silphium perfoliatum (cup plant)

Silphium1

The final entry this week is another very tall plant and a North Carolina native (though it is more common further west).  It grows about 7-8 feet tall (2-2.4 m) with thick stems bearing large, coarse leaves.  I’m only showing three inflorescences of about thirty in the clump. It’s not a plant for a small garden, but given the huge number of butterflies and bees that it attracts, I don’t begrudge it the space it requires.

Oh, one more thing…Sometimes the Rhexia petals don’t get a chance to drop before someone comes along and munches on them.

Rhexia2

As always, head over to The Propagator to see his very interesting Six on Saturday and links to those of other participants.