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Re: Hybridization...

Chris Weiss wrote:

> The only problem with buying streaked seedlings is that it could take
> five years to mature and stabilize.  The streaked seedling you buy could
> go all green in 2-3 years.  I would simply recommend buying streaked
> hostas that are already mature and hybridize them yourself.

Well..., while your first two sentences are technically correct, I think
your conclusion is misleading.    If you are going to use streaked plants,
whether seedlings or divisions of older plants, for hybridizing, you don't
want them to mature and stabilize.  If you want a mature, stable hosta, you
shouldn't be buying streaked plants.  Streaked plants, with 'Spilt Milk'
being the only possible exception I am aware of, are by definition,
unstable.  Over time, all streaked plants will revert to single color or
variegated plants, and when a streaked plant no longer produces streaked
leaves and instead, produces leaves that are all uniformly colored, they are
considered stable.  At that point, they no longer produce streaked or
variegated seedlings.  On the other hand, streaked seedlings will usually
bloom the first year, and will themselves produce more streaked and
variegated seedlings.  When they mature and stabilize, they will no longer
produce streaked and variegated seedlings to any extent. In my experience,
there is no difference in the ability of young or old plants to produce
streaked and variegated seedlings.

Stabilization is not something that cannot be stopped.  I happens as the
plant multiplies.  When a single eye division or seedling of a streaked
plant multiplies, generally in the spring, the new shoots that arise will
differ in their coloring.  A plant that has four new shoots may have one
that is green, one that is edge variegated, one center variegated, and one
that is streaked, or some other combination of the various possibilities.
You maintain the streaking from year to year by dividing the plant and
isolating the streaked shoots, otherwise, the stable shoots will dominate
and the streaking will eventually be lost - the plant is stabilized.  And
since only the streaked shoots will reliably produce streaked or variegated
seedlings, a mature, stable plant is not what most breeders are looking
for.  This process occurs whether the plant is one year old or 10 years old.

Some hostas hold their streaking longer than others, but without dividing,
all that I am aware of will eventually lose it.  There is no reason to buy
named, streaked hostas, which may be what Chris is referring to as "already
mature", rather than seedlings, except that you will have some indication as
to what the characteristics of the plant will be because they have been
described, rather than the pot luck you have with seedlings.  That doesn't
always mean that the characteristics of the named varieties are superior,
just predictable.


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