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Re: Re: HYB:Colchicine

  • Subject: Re: [iris-talk] Re: HYB:Colchicine
  • From: Bill Shear <wshear@hsc.edu>
  • Date: Mon, 31 Dec 2001 09:56:19 -0500

> As for there being ample genetic material with tetraploid bearded
> irises, there's room for debate. Bearded irises are not my bag, but I
> read enough to know that there are still many improvements to be made.

Dennis, I think there are indeed improvements to be made, but it is highly
unlikely that they will be made by converting diploid varieties to
tetraploids.  The people in question wanted to convert variegated-foliage
diploids to tetraploids in order to get that genetic information into the
tetraploid lines.  They are perhaps not aware that there are already
tetraploids with variegated foliage.  My point was that using colchicine, a
dangerrous substance, to accomplish this trivial end was not worth the risk.
Colchicine is a valuable tool in the hands of experienced plant breeders
with the knowledge and experience to use it properly.  I definitely got the
impression from the posts we read that the people who were proposing to use
it were in fact beginners.

> scare a would be scientist or hybridizer away from conducting those
> experiments based on colchicine toxicity would be a shame.

Not trying to scare anyone, just interjecting a note of caution into a
discussion that seemed to need it.
> I would like to think that there are some people out there who are
> willing to deal with the odds and the risks. I don't think working with
> colchicine is any more dangerous than growing digitalis in your garden.
> Digitalis is not for the novice gardener and colchicine is not for the
> novice breeder.
Whoa! You're definitely wrong to equate Digitalis (foxglove) as a garden
plant with a concentrated extract that is known to be highly toxic.  Do you
know how many intensely bitter foxglove leaves you would have to eat in
order to feel an effect?  In contrast, minute amounts of colchicine are
lethal.  As for Digitalis not being for the novice, it is one of the easiest
plants to grow and naturalizes so readily that it can become a pest.  In
many parts of the country it is found abundantly in ditches and wet meadows.
Yes, colchicine is not for the novice breeder, and the people who were
proposing to use it were in fact, novices.

Bill Shear
Department of Biology
Hampden-Sydney College
Hampden-Sydney VA 23943
FAX (434)223-6374
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"A man thinks as well through his legs and arms as his brain.  We exaggerate
the importance and exclusiveness of the headquarters.  Do you suppose they
were a race of consumptives and dyspeptics who invented Grecian mythology
and poetry?  The poet's words are, "You would almost say the body thought!"
I quite say it.  I trust we have a good body then."  --Henry David Thoreau,
Journals, Dec. 31, 1860.

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