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Re: [aroid-l] Dracunculus seeding...

  • Subject: Re: [aroid-l] Dracunculus seeding...
  • From: "Derek Burch" derek@horticulturist.com
  • Date: Thu, 15 Jan 2004 08:29:00 -0500
  • Importance: Normal

-----Original Message-----
From: aroid-l-owner@lists.ncsu.edu [mailto:aroid-l-owner@lists.ncsu.edu] On
Behalf Of C. J. Addington
Sent: Monday, September 22, 2003 2:01 AM
To: aroid-l@lists.ncsu.edu
Subject: Re: [aroid-l] Dracunculus seeding...

on 9/20/03 03:21, Paul Tyerman at ptyerman@ozemail.com.au wrote:

>> ranging from pea-sized yearlings to gnarly old monsters (ever notice how
>> ugly Dracunculus corms get when you don't let them set seed for 4 or 5
>> years?),
> C.J,
> I always have a bit of a chuckle when I hear comments about Dracunculus
> seedings so easily for everyone.  In many years of growing it I have never
> had one single seed set on it, despite numerous flowers out at one time
> the like.  Either I have a sterile clone, or the pollinating vector is not
> present in my country/climate/locality (who knows which?).
> The seedheads I have heard can be rather impressive, and I'd love to see
> them for that reason alone as like you I have plenty of the little beggars
> without seed as well <grin>.  Out of interest, what do Dracunculus look
> like when you HAVE had seed set?  Given I have only ever seen non-seeded
> ones obviously I have missed the "supermodel" variety and only get to see
> my "Ugly Duckling" non-seeding for a lot more than 4 or 5 years <big
> Does anyone know what the pollinating vector is for Dracunculus?  I am
> assuming it is likely to be a carrion beetle or something like that, which
> we don't have present in the Australian eco-system.  I often have
> pollination of Arum species, but never of Dracunculus (and I haven't had
> Amorph konjac flower for me yet to find out whether it selfs or not).
> It is always interesting to come across comments like these, so I'm glad
> you made it.  It just seems so strange to me thinking about Dracunculus
> actually seeding, whereas you have to STOP yours doing so!!
> Cheers.
> Paul Tyerman
> Canberra, Australia.  USDA equivalent - Zone 8/9
> mailto:ptyerman@ozemail.com.au
> Growing.... Galanthus, Erythroniums, Fritillarias, Cyclamen, Crocus,
> Cyrtanthus, Oxalis, Liliums, Hellebores, Aroids, Irises plus just about
> anything else that doesn't move!!!!!

Hi Paul and All!
    I hope everyone enjoyed the Show in Florida! I am very jealous, and wish
I could have gone, but it always seems to hit just as my school has
mid-quarter grades due, and I just can't get away. The curse of teaching
physics - grading the papers.
    I am actually not sure what the real pollination vector is for
Dracunculus, since in my yard it's me! All of my Dracunculus that set seed
were pollinated by me, so I guess I am the busy bee in this case. If you
have a bunch of the guys flowering together it should be pretty
straightforward to do the plant sex thing. Here's my technique : I get a
clean glass jar and a soft brush, and wait for a bloom to open. The first
day it's female receptive and there's no pollen, but on the second day the
males open up and dump pollen all over the various bugs that have arrived. I
take a sharp knife and cut a window into the base of the spathe and use the
brush to brush out all the pollen-coated beetles (plus a few dazed flies)
that are crawling around in there into the jar. Then I cap the jar and put
it in the freezer until another flower is ready. I usually try to pick a big
healthy plant that I think will make a good mother. On the first day of the
new flower, I shake my jar full of frozen, pollen-encrusted beetles all over
the spadix so that the female flowers are well covered, and that usually
does the trick. The berries develop soon after, and slowly turn a lovely
orange-red as they ripen. A mature Dracunculus seed-head looks exactly like
a huge Arum italicum - same basic design, but about three feet tall. Very
pretty! Once the berries are ripe, I squish them in water to remove the
pulp, let the seeds dry for a day or two and them plant them in pots
outside. The seedlings emerge around October/November here in California,
and have made pea-sized corms by June. This process works so well here, that
I could easily go commercial and sell these puppies, except that then it
would be work, and I only do this as a hobby!
    Most of the time I cut the blooms off and don't let them set seed. If
they made seeds I would have to plant them, since I have some kind of
psychological disorder that prevents me from discarding viable aroids.
    I had a few people comment on my Amorphophallus konjac, suggesting that
I must be exaggerating their heights. Seven feet? Surely I jest! But it's
true! I have this one strain (race, variety, subspecies?) that I call
"black-stem" that I have grown for years that is just huge. I planted one
9-pound corm in a 25 gallon clay pot in May, and I can now walk under the
out-stretched leaf blade upright without brushing its underside with my
hair. All I can see looking up is the bottom of the leaf. Granted, some of
the height is the pot - I'd guess the corm is sitting a good 18" off the
ground - and I am no giant (I'm 5'6") - but this is a big plant! I would
have to stand on a ladder to even see the top surface of the leaf. When this
same corm bloomed in March, the flower was as tall as me.
    I have other kojac strains (varieties, etc. - what are we supposed to
call those anyway?) that are midgets by comparison, which never get more
than a couple of feet tall, if that.
    Does anyone else have experience with tall konjac? Just how big do these
get? I'd love to hear how tall your tallest konjac is! In the meantime, I
will procure a tape-measure and make a more scientific analysis of my plant
while it is still in leaf.
    Hoping everyone is having a fantastic autumn equinox! (Can you balance
an Amorphophallus corm on its side on the equinox?)



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