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Hybridizing ... @home

Discussion in 'Plant Propagation' started by digitS', Apr 20, 2017.

  1. Apr 20, 2017
    digitS'

    digitS' Garden Master

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    @lcertuche suggested today that I could come up with an industry-shaking hybrid out of the mix of plants in my pepper patch. Or, she used some such adjective ;).

    There's a problem with playing with hybrids in a small garden ... and my garden isn't even small!

    Several years ago, some of you may remember that I tried my digitS' at hybridizing tomatoes in the backyard. My plan was to take 2 varieties that I was happy enuf with and see what their offspring would be like. Of course, since tomatoes are self-fertile, I had to move the pollen. It was too much for my clumsy digitS'! I had no idea that tomato flowers are so small until I began to cut them open and try to move the pollen from one to another. Also, altho the 2 varieties were early and indeterminate, they really didn't have lots of blooms at the same time - not blooms that were in the same state that I determined was appropriate for pollen transfer.

    One problem with playing with hybrids is limited space in a garden. I was messing around with just one plant of each variety. Anyway, after having these plants intertangled with each other for 3 years - and not even attempting messing with them in years #2 & #3 - they seemed to take on the process by themselves!

    I saved seed from the Bloody Butcher in 2015 and had several seedlings with regular leaves in 2016! Now
    • Buisson - regular leaf
    • Bloody Butcher - potato leaf
    I was pleased with how well the plants grew and produced fruit. There's not a lot of difference between the fruit of each of these. Since potato leaves are a recessive characteristic, I figured that Buisson had contributed pollen. The only thing I was concerned about was that there was a regular leaf Yellow Jelly Bean plant in that tangle of plants near my deck steps. It's already a hybrid, yellow is recessive - I had to hope that the pollen was from the Buisson and not the Jelly Bean plant.

    Weeellll, I saved seed from what I thought might be my hoped-for hybrid (called it Sally ;)) and planted 6 (six) seeds in March. They all have regular leaves!!!

    "What's wrong with that?" you might ask. If the plant is hiding that recessive potato leaf characteristic, 25% of them should have had potato leaves! So, what's 25% of 6? ... maybe one. See, if I had 100 offspring and 25 of them had potato leaves (or, some reasonable number close to 25), I could be confident that "Sally" is actually a hybrid. With 6 identical appearing plants, I can't ... and, I can't begin either winnowing out the potato leaf characteristic or saving it. And, what about that Yellow Jelly Bean??? Waaahhh!

    I'm just gonna have to plant all 6 and I'm just gonna have to eat my tomatoes and be happy with that ... don't you think?

    digitS'
     
    Collector and valley ranch like this.
  2. Apr 20, 2017
    valley ranch

    valley ranch Garden Addicted

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    Wow, I can't believe I read the whole thing. I don't hyper plants, I did once plant a particular good tasting pastry mama had made hoping the fruit of the tree would please the family, that I had thought to plant it.
     
    digitS' likes this.
  3. Apr 21, 2017
    lcertuche

    lcertuche Deeply Rooted

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    Jackie Clay has some articles on hybrid/heirloom seed saving. I was just joking about the hybrid but then again I suppose that's how most hybrids turned up. I think it's interesting about how she plants so many varieties from the cucurbit family without cross-pollination.
    http://www.backwoodshome.com/saving-seeds/

    Plant seeds have got so expensive I will try to save as many seeds as I can. I know I planted some watermelon seeds from a store bought watermelon and what I ended up with was bushels of varying sizes of small, thick rind melons that were sooo sweet and good. They lasted for a couple of months in my garage. Now would this happen every time? I doubt it but it doesn't hurt to give it a try now and then. I happen to have a bare spot in a new garden and didn't know any better back then. It is especially interesting that it was in July when I planted the seed.
     
  4. Apr 21, 2017
    digitS'

    digitS' Garden Master

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    "... the species Cucurbita, grown in the United States: C. pepo, C. maxima, C. mixta, C. moschata, and C. argyrosperma. C. pepos are usually pumpkins and summer squash. C. maxima are usually larger, pumpkin-shaped squash and hubbard-type squash. C. mixtas can be cushaw, “sweet potato” or Japanese squash. C. moschata includes some Japanese and pumpkin-squash. C. argyrosperma includes many striped cushaw-type fruits.

    It seems confusing, but you can still grow five different squashes in your garden each year, one of each variety, and still keep pure squash."

    There you go! I have not tried mixtas or argyrosperma but it would be fairly easy to segregate 3 more common ones with so many choices within each species.

    Steve
     
  5. Apr 21, 2017
    lcertuche

    lcertuche Deeply Rooted

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    That came as a pleasant surprise to me to. I'll be looking closer to Latin names in the descriptions from now on.
     
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  6. May 4, 2017
    Zeedman

    Zeedman Deeply Rooted

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    Not to be nit picky (and I know it's not your quote, @digitS') but it is the genus Cucurbita, and the species C. mixta is an obsolete term. The species was renamed C. argyrosperma... so the two are actually the same, and you can't grow 5 different squashes without crossing (or most of us can't, but see note *). (Most C. argyrosperma are heat lovers, difficult to grow to maturity in Northern climates. I've yet to grow one here.)

    Over the years, I've been able to save C. moschata or C. maxima squash for seed in the same garden, with only one cross... which interestingly, appears to be an inter-species cross between the two. It is a hard cross to 'make', but not uncommon. Only a few seeds appear to be fertile, I hope to plant them this year, to see how interesting (and how useful?) the F2 will be. The cross appears to have been Tromboncino (the maternal plant) with a buttercup-like kabocha as the pollen donor. It could be good breeding material, but I would be really surprised - and incredibly lucky - if any of the progeny possess good eating qualities.

    C. pepo has so many variations - and is so commonly grown - that it is hard to keep pure, even if you grow only one. Squash is such a rich pollen source that bees will fly great distances to feed on it. I saved seed from Ebony Acorn in my rural garden one year, with the nearest other garden about 1/2 mile away. When I planted that seed the following year, it was about 50% crossed... to judge by the results, the distant parents were a yellow zucchini & a pumpkin. I was tempted to try stabilizing the bright orange acorn squash, but it was just barely edible.:barnie

    * There is one more squash in the Cucurbita genus, C. ficifolia, a.k.a. Malabar gourd, fig leaf squash, and shark fin melon. Very vigorous, highly productive, and perennial - but it is daylength sensitive, and will only mature squash in long-season areas. It is also the Mutant Squash That Will Devour Your Garden, unless severely pruned back. I grew it here one summer, and it completely overran a 30' X 30' space, and would have overrun the surrounding plots had I not pruned the vines. If you are in a sub-tropical climate, though, and have space to let it run (or a tree it can conquer) you've GOT to try it. :thumbsup
     
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  7. May 4, 2017
    jackb

    jackb Garden Addicted

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    My current hybridizing project is not as complicated as Steve's, it is a cross of a Phalaenopsis orchid. The cross was the easy part, now I must wait for the pod to ripen. Then, comes the hard part: germinating the seeds under sterile conditions in agar. As I have never tried this procedure I am not at all sure of success, but I am hopeful. Then, it will be a few years to grow the plants to blooming size to see if I have a winner or an ugly duckling.
    Why create a hybrid? I am also like Steve, I like to fool Mother Nature.
    jackb

    pod.jpg
     
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  8. May 4, 2017
    Zeedman

    Zeedman Deeply Rooted

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  9. May 5, 2017
    lcertuche

    lcertuche Deeply Rooted

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    @Zeedman you make some interesting points. I was wondering if you use the male blooms of the plant to pollinate the female blooms of the same plant will that keep the plant from crossing. Will it still pollinate with another plant?

    Also I think if you prune just past the fruit after the fruit sets the plants don't get so jungle like.
     
  10. May 5, 2017
    Zeedman

    Zeedman Deeply Rooted

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    Yes, if you hand pollinate the female blossom with a male blossom from the same plant (the term for this is "selfing"), and prevent any further pollination, you will get pure seed. Both blossoms - male and female - need to be covered before they open, and re-covered immediately after hand pollination. Those flowers should then be marked with something durable (such as a twist tie) to identify the mature squash for seed saving. It really is not hard to do this, you could grow dozens of different squashes & save pure seed for all of them... but it must be done early in the morning. The fact that I work work mornings is all that prevents me from doing just that. I'm really looking forward to growing & experimenting with a lot more squashes when I retire in a few years... especially a breeding line for naked-seeded pumpkins.
    Well... maybe. If it is cultivar with long vines (especially those that root at the nodes) it will just form new branches. Those new branches probably won't spread as aggressively, though.
     
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