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Re: Re: Survivors and hybridizers

  • Subject: [PHOTO] Re: [iris-photos] Re: Survivors and hybridizers
  • From: oneofcultivars@aol.com
  • Date: Thu, 29 Jan 2004 11:52:32 EST

In a message dated 1/28/2004 12:15:20 AM Central Standard Time, neilm@charter.net writes:

Considering the difficult conditions last March through the end of July when we had more than eight inches of rain per month, I found my modern irises growing with a *northern* slope esposure faring much better than those on south slopes.

Down here when we talk, we speak with our hands. When we dream, we dream in Technicolor. When we think, we think in pictures. It is some difficult to express all we wish to say without pictures. Some say it's because we have a poor grasp of the alphabet, have a penchant for big long stories, and hate to type. Others claim it's because of our creative use of that same alphabet for spellin' purposes and we are embarrassed by such revelations. Ain't much way to know. Some of all I spect, much like bacterial soft rot.

Increasingly I am finding myself outside the camp, more or less simplistically, suggesting moisture as the culprit responsible for bacterial soft rot. Your experience supports this position. I accept only perhaps that it is one of the necessary components and I do not accept that wholeheartedly. I find Pries post concerning the complex nature of rot susceptibly far more palatable-his call for controlled experiments of particular merit. We need to know more. A lot more.

Curiosity often leads in strange directions here. I was digging some rhizomes of several cultivars and dug a couple that had bloomed. They were hard, alive and healthy. but proportionally longer when compared to more typical iris rhizomes. The stalk exit was calloused over and healthy. They seemed atypical in one respect. They had no axillary buds, no evidence to the naked eye anyway. The were smooth except for the scars where the leaves had senesced during the growth process. I wondered if these mother rhizomes might be forced to initiate new growth. I new mother rhizomes could be encouraged to do so from past efforts. I decided to look for a "new" best way. Most likely these rhizomes had just not reached the point in the season and conditions which justified their initiation of axillary buds.

It might be wise here to differentiate between the term "mother rhizome" and "spent rhizome" and "spent mother rhizome" I often hear/see the terms used interchangeably particularly when people speak of digging and lining out clumps. In my mind, a mother rhizome is any rhizome that has bloomed but still remains viable with or without visually evident axillary buds (toes). A spent rhizome is any rhizome, whether it has bloomed or not, that is dead and no longer contains living tissue. A spent mother rhizome is a one that has bloomed and no longer contains living tissue.

I washed the two rhizomes, put them in a zip lock bags added an ounce or so of water to each bag and put them in the refrigerator. Expecting from previously collected data and believing it, that rot would not easily occur, if at all, when the rhizomes were held at refrigerator temps. Nor did I believe the rot pathogen would be destroyed if they were present. Kinda' figured they would just sleep.

They remained in the refrigerator for about two months. Nothing happened. I expected some axillary buds to emerge. They didn't. I had previously "reconstituted" some dried out Iris cristata rhizomes the same way that did quite well after being dried for a lengthy period of time seemingly beyond recovery. I was disappointed the tall bearded rhizomes had not behaved the same way.

Reconstituted Iris cristata rhizomes

Anyway, having a somewhat tolerant though impatient wife, I removed the still smooth but undamaged rhizomes from the refrigerator. I stuck them on a rack on the porch. That rack by the way is referred to as the "What am I gonna' do with this _ _ _ _" rack and I have several such racks. I forgot about them.

Some time later, about a month, while putting more stuff on the rack I saw the two bagged rhizomes. One was growing foliage. The other had no change at all other than some darkening of the water in the bag. I righted the bag with the foliaged rhizome and placed both where I could see (remember) them better but otherwise took no action.

Time progressed. I could not see detail particularly well through the constant condensation covering the interior of the bags. Each time I felt the non-foliaged rhizome it felt firm. The humidity inside the bags for practical purposes always 100%.

Finally, curiosity got the better of me and I opened the non-foliaged bag for a better look. I could not believe it was doing nothing. Still no axillary buds. Still discolored water in the bottom. No soft rot odor. None. It did exude the strong fragrance of alcohol. I closed the bag and placed it back on the rack. A few weeks later a fuzzy gray mold appeared on the rhizome in the non-foliaged bag. It appeared to be prominent and only in the areas normally populated by axillary buds.

Non-foliage rhizome with gray mold

Some inferences can be drawn from all this. Probably a great deal of the information could have also been collected for other sources with some research effort. Nor is it presented as science for it is not.

Foliaged rhizome

But it brings us to the point upon which Pries touches. The bottom line is as a plant societies we fail -- my words not his. We do not address the needs of the membership. We do not advance the popularity of the flower. We do not grow as an organization. In fact we decline as a group in membership each year in the AIS. If the present trend continues we will be down to about 800 or so people in just ten more years. Why?

I have again started digressing. "Why?" to be continued someday.

Anyway, back on track. We need science. We need field tests. We need hybridizers. We need growers. We need gardeners. We need coordination of and input from the many.

Approximately a month after the appearance of the gray mold (not Erwinia caratovora) the unfoliaged rhizome had finally contracted bacterial soft rot and became mushy. It remains on the rack in the bag. The foliaged rhizome has two smaller buds and a larger central fan and has been removed from the bag. It has undergone several freezes since removal.

One might reasonably infer or perhaps even conclude from the above only that Iris cristata will initiate new growth at about 35 degrees and that TB's may not. And, one might infer that while moisture and humidity may influence bacterial rot advancement it may not be the major factor it is purported to be. At best perhaps only one of several. One might suspect a symbiotic relationship between the gray mold and soft rot. And one might even suspect inability or retarded ability to produce foliage to be a contributing rot factor. Others may infer more. As is often the case, I now have more questions than answers.

I have several rhizomes in my refrigerator now (also have an irritated wife runnin' round outside the refrigerator). Spent rhizomes, spent mother rhizomes, and mother rhizomes getting wet and cold.

We need either larger refrigerators, fewer wives, or more science. I'm thinking more science is the better option.

Bill Burleson


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