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Another Vaughn Article--1991

Found in THJ Vol.22 No.2-1991 page 31.

A New Kind of Variegation

by Kevin C. Vaughn
   Stoneville, Mississippi

For years, I have investigated the inheritance of variegation in Hosta,
including my Ph.D. work at Miami University (Ohio), and I thought that I had
"seen it all." Some of my crosses the last few years, involving the plant H.
'Northern Mist' have caused me to rethink some of my ideas on the
inheritance of variegation in Hosta.
  About three years ago, I obtained a plant of H. 'Northern Mist'. Like H.
'Northern Halo' and H. 'Northern Lights', H. 'Northern Mist' is a sport of
H. sieboldiana 'Elegans' that arose in tissue culture at Walters Gardens in
Zeeland, Michigan. H. 'Northern Mist' is similar to H. 'Northern Halo',
except that the central portion of the leaf is a mottled
blue-green-over-white rather than a clean white. The broad edge of blue of
H. 'Northern Mist' is similar to that found in H. 'Northern Halo'. My plant
sent up a bloomscape almost immediately upon planting and, without many
other interesting things to cross with it, I selfed every bloom on the
scape, resulting in over twenty plump pods and almost two hundred seedlings.
Unlike many other variegated plants, the seedlings from H. 'Northern Mist'
were one hundred percent variegated and one hundred percent of this mottled
type of variegation, as in the center of the leaf of H. 'Northern Mist'.
There was some variation within the seedlings, some in which the white
predominated and some in which the bluegreen predominated, but all had
misted variegation. Generally, crosses of a striated type of variegation
(e.g. H. 'William Lachman') give rise to seedlings of six types: all-green,
all-white (dies), edged white, centered white, striated, and wedges of green
and white (so-called sectorial chimera). The proportion of the types depends
upon the proportion and arrangement of green and white tissue in the capsule
of the parent. Seeds from some open-pollinated seeds of H. 'Northern Mist'
did produce a few blue-green progeny but these are expected at a frequency
of about five percent due to the contribution of the LI histogen to the
formation of a few of the ovules; that is, the color of the margin of the
leaf is expected to occur in a few progeny even though a majority will be
like the leaf center; however, one would not expect all of the variegation
to be of one type (the misted type).

  Several of the variegated seedlings from selfing H. 'Northern Mist' are
putting up bloomscapes now so I'll continue selfing these to determine if
they sort out into a more typical pattern of variegation or will continue to
stay misted.
  This type of variegation is also noted in H. 'Spilt Milk' (Seaver) (with a
green edge like H. 'Northern Mist'). Unfortunately, H. 'Spilt Milk' is a
very reluctant pod parent, so I have not gotten any progeny from this plant
to know if its inheritance is like that found in H 'Northern Mist'. The
effect in H. 'Spilt Milk' is enhanced because the green is a very deep
green, so that there is a greater contrast between the edge and the center
of the leaf.
  At first, I was elated to have a plant that yielded such a high percentage
of variegated seedlings, but my enthusiasm has waned, in that they are all
of the mist type. From a distance of more than five feet, the mist type
variegated plant appears to the eye uniformly blue-green. Therefore, they
are the kind of variegation for close-up appreciation only. In the
landscape, the traditionally edged or centered variegation is going to be
much more eyecatching. Yet, I would like a few of this type, especially if
they are combined with other good plant habits. As I remarked to Mildred
Seaver many years ago when asked my opinion on her H. 'Sea Octopus', "It's
interesting, but I wouldn't want a yard of it." Mist variegation is
interesting and adds further variety to our hosta planting; but, I doubt it
will supplant our more familiar kinds of variegation.

Preston Littleton ( plittleton@ce.net )
Seaford DE
zone 7

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