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Re: Iris setosa (response)

  • To: Multiple recipients of list <iris-l@rt66.com>
  • Subject: Re: Iris setosa (response)
  • From: Daryl &Kathy Haggstrom <hagg@alaska.net>
  • Date: Tue, 16 Dec 1997 19:35:27 -0700 (MST)

Ian E. & Shirley Efford wrote:
> Breeding this species in the garden will generate considerable variety but it cannot >compare with the variety that one has in nature.  For this reason alone, I would begin by >scouring the countryside for natural variants. 
I have found that the stands I see in the wild are certainly hard to
top. Sometimes I wonder what I think I'm doing trying to better what
looks so perfect in front of me. I know this isn't so for the beardeds &
Japanese etc. They indeed seem highly evolved tho I haven't seen those
in person. My main preoccupation until recently has been building as
good a base as I can. I have found some I've been puzzling over, & still
am not sure of. Perhaps you would have answers for me on those at some
future date. Several mutated looking 6-petal plants are my main puzzle
right now.
> I would then take the most beautiful of this range of plants and try to develop
> pure lines with the best colours.  This would mean crossing, say, the
> best dark red with the next best dark red and raising those seeds.  The
> offsring can be backcrossed to the parent or to others showing strong
> colour in that red range.  The long term goal would be the introduction
> of a red (maroon) that was a beautiful flower and was consistent in
> colour and hopefully in form.  The same could be tried for other colour
> variants - for example the whites.
Thank you for encouraging this as a desirable breeding method. I have
being doing part of that (but no backcrossing yet) on the assumption it
should work. But bad breeding programs can take just as much time as
good, so I was sort of concerned I might be spinning my wheels. 
> I have a lovely setosa which is purple-blue (??) and carries many flower
> heads.  It also flowers for a long time and produces many seed pods.
> (All the seeds have gone to our local rock garden society exchange and
> so most of Ottawa will be covered with setosa over the next few years.)
> It does tend to be a bit floppy but is quite outstanding as a garden
> flower, which surprised me as I do not find out versicolor a very
> attractive garden plant and I assumed that the two would be similar. 
 In Alaska the wild variety is used a lot for natural landscaping for
just that reason - that they make such good garden plants. Their foliage
after blooming is a true asset up here, because it's the only perennial
with attractive blade-like foliage. There is nothing else available.
Their qualities in that area are sterling. That was an interesting note
about floppy stems/plants. Some setosa which look very good in the wild,
become floppy & overvigorous under cultivation. I have had several which
did that, & decided to weed them out of my bog, i.e. my breeding
program, because I found the trait so unattractive. It was hard to do
with one, because the blossom was a large lovely lavender, but I am
adamant about that trait. I will be able to come up with blooms that are
just as nice on attractive stems & foliage. (But it is hard, sort of
like culling a favorite dog from your sled dog team)
> would have no hesitation in adding other colour varieties if they were
> available.
Do you mean more variety of versicolor in your garden, or setosa? Or
> As to the difference between setosa and hookeri, apart from the fact
> that the former is more branched, I think that there are very few
> morphological differences between the two.  The Japanese researchers did
> find a consistant biochemical difference.
I made a comment on iris-l to the effect that there seemed to be
differences to me, but you must understand I am basing that on my eye, &
know they use different measures botanically(?). I mentioned to Diane
Louis via e-mail that I wondered about her comment that she suspected I.
hookeri came before I. setosa. I told her I always assumed I setosa
produced I hookeri instead, because of the similarity of the Japanese &
Siberian setosa to the Alaskan form, but that may instead prove just the
opposite. I also told her that in all my wanderings among wild iris
stands here, I always expected to find a I. hookeri "throwback" but
haven't. I have seen setosa similarly colored, but no I. hookeri look
alike. I always thought that odd, because if they were so close as to be
regarded as the same species, I would definitely at some point find one
throwback in the wild - the odds would certainly encourage that. But
I've seen a LOT of wild setosa (miles of them), and absolutely no
hookeri styled ones. That may also prove a point, though what I'm not
sure of because I'm not trained in botany. What is your opinion? I've
seen large enough isolated groupings where I can discern trait patterns
in each stand. Perhaps someday I'll come across the group where I will
recognize an I. hookeri outcropping, yes? I will be so pleased.
Oh yes, did you know the Tanaina (Alaskan Athapaskan group) name for I.
setosa means "The tern's fish rack pole"? I am still puzzling that one
out, tho it may mean tern eat the seed of setosa, all lined up like
little smoked salmon in their little smoke house. Since you've seen
setosa seed pods, you can imagine the picture. I've just never seen tern
eating them yet.
> Ian, in Ottawa where a little more snow has been accompanies by -16C 
(Heaven. I have my favorite CD of snow songs out - Ferrante & Teicher's
"Snowbound". I hope you have that one)
>(and the dog remains vegetarian but it can only reach the Clivia.)
Aren't you going to experiment with Poinsettia poisoning, by feeding a
plant to the dog?
Thank you for your input. Enjoyed it a lot.
Kathy Haggstrom
Zone 3

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