Saturday, January 24, 2015

Schlumbergera seedling no. 021

As I've explained before, some of the pots of Schlumbergera seedlings contain more than one seedling, and consequently bloom in more than one color.1 021 is an example of this, though the two plants to have bloomed so far aren't dramatically different.

The first is, you know, fine. Orange. Not the deep dark orange of #025 "Clownfish," not a pastel orange like #024 "Bryce Canyon," it's just orange. After a lot of poking around in the TinEye search, I came up with a picture of a spider crab (Hoplophrys oatesii) on "soft coral," so I'm calling it "Spider Crab."

(As seedlings claim the more obvious photographic subjects from TinEye, the names are likely to get weirder and less obviously related to the flower colors. I would say I'm sorry, but I'm actually looking forward to more of this so I guess I'm not sorry.)

The second seedling in pot #021 is pleasant, though, or at least it photographed pretty well. The only real difference is that its tube is pink. (Technically, "Spider Crab" also has a pink tube, but you have to be looking at it pretty hard to see that it's not quite white.)

TinEye gave me a handful of birthday parties (of one specific child in particular, who seemed to be having a good time), and lots of images of people's food,2 so I'm splitting the difference and going with "Birthday Dinner."

Also if anybody has any advice for ways I could mark the plants so as to be able to tell them apart when they're not in bloom, that would be appreciated. At some point I'm going to want to propagate some of these, and I won't be able to do that if I don't know which plant had the flowers I want to propagate. You see the problem.3

Joseph Tychonievich, in his book Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener, suggests embroidery thread -- it's not bulky, it comes in lots of different colors, it won't wash off in water, etc. That seems like a great solution for some kinds of plants (I'd use acrylic yarn because it's what I have already, but same idea.), but I'm hesitant to tie anything onto the segments because of how easily they pull apart. And the only other thing I can think of would be writing on the segments in Sharpie (bad idea: it'd wash or flake off by the time they bloom again), carving into the segments with a needle (permanently disfiguring, and in the event that the plant dropped the wrong segment, I'd lose the information), or sticking something through a segment (same problem).

So I'll go with the yarn thing if I have to, but I'm hoping someone else has an idea that will work even better.

And just for the record: no, dividing the plants is not an option at the moment. Not only are the roots all matted and intertwined with one another, making it nearly impossible to do without killing them (or at least setting them back quite a bit), but I don't have the room for the number of additional pots this would create.


1 As will become apparent later, this is sort of a Big Problem for me. If you decide to try to grow some houseplants from seed, and the plant in question is variable enough that you expect to get significantly different seedlings by doing so, pot the seedlings up individually when you start them. Yes, some of them will die, and then you'll feel like you've wasted a bunch of space or potting soil or whatever, but it's better than realizing later that you can't tell them apart unless they're blooming.
2 Why has it become a thing for people to take pictures of their food before eating it? I'm not necessarily annoyed by people photographing their food, and I don't think it makes you a bad person if you do or anything. I just don't understand who the photograph is for. I mean, they're not even usually very good photos. Are there people who find it entertaining to reminisce about specific meals they've eaten, but can't do it effectively unless they have a visual prompt? Are there people who are entertained by seeing pictures of meals that other people have eaten in their absence? It's confusing to me.
3 In fact, it looks like several of the plants don't intend to bloom again until next November, which is a long time to have to wait to figure out which is which: I may not have any propagated flowering-sized plants from any of these until the fall of 2017 or 2018. Possibly if I'm lucky, I'll see a few blooms in April or May and be able to start a little sooner, but even so. Would have been helpful if I'd anticipated this problem and tried to do something about it when I still could have, hence the advice in footnote 1.


Paul said...

Trouble with using just thread or yarn as the marker is that you still need to have a record of just which plants were in each pot and/or which thread color corresponds to which plant name. If one only has a few plants with which one is working, that is not a big deal. If knowing "I want to cross a red with something orange" is good enough, then even with a large spectrum of plants that system should be fine.

However, if one is working with a large number of plants as you are or if you have ideas for very specific crosses that becomes a problem -- assuming you desire accuracy in keeping track of your crosses.

Additional options:
1) Buy a batch of plant tags or cut up some strips of stiff white plastic strips. I find that I can easily cut standard plant tags in half or even thirds -- depending on their original length. This not only gives me more tags for my buck, but also having 3" tag (or larger) sticking up out of a 2inch pot -- usually dwarfing the plant in said pot -- annoys me. Make a small hole near the end of the tag and write down the name or ID# you wish to assign to the plant. Thread the hole with thread, thin plastic coated wire, or a twist tie. (I find the latter two to be most effective as I don't have to play around trying to tie a knot.) Secure loosely around the main body of the plant or around a thicker branch.

2) If you have broad twist ties, write the ID on the end of the tie and secure it around the plant. (My grocery store has such ties for use in their bulk produce section so shoppers can write the ID code used during checkout.)

mr_subjunctive said...


I hadn't really been thinking about making specific crosses with the Schlumbergeras so much, though now that you've said that, it occurs to me that I probably could.[1] I'd been thinking of the ID problem as being primarily about what plants I'd want to propagate later, and being able to keep those straight without having to wait for the cuttings to bloom first.

What I'd been thinking of, for the yarn color-coding, was: I've been documenting the blooms in photos as they appear, and calling the first one to bloom #whatever-A, the second one B, and so forth. So I was going to just designate one color of yarn to be the "A" color, a different one to be "B," and so forth. I'd have to refer back to the photos for any specific crosses I wanted to make, but once I had cuttings propagated, I'd have tags in those pots saying that it was, you know, #025 "Clownfish" or whatever, and odds are that I'd be able to remember the ones I wanted to propagate anyway.

As far as the plant tags / twist ties ideas, what do you use to write on those with? I can't get much to stick to plastic tags, and when I can, it fades fast. That's why I had to resort to my print-it-out-and-tape-it-to-a-plastic-strip-then-laminate-it-all-with-tape method: nothing else is permanent enough. Sharpie fades or flakes off, china markers don't write on plastic, ballpoint pen fades.


[1] I don't try for deliberate crosses because: A) it can be difficult to tell whether a spadix is actually producing pollen in the first place, B) it's difficult to tell whether a spadix is accepting pollen, C) I don't get very many chances to try, because most plants don't produce a lot of flowers, D) development is slow enough that if I don't make a successful cross on my first try, I won't find out until several weeks later, by which point the opportunity to try again will be gone, and E) I have to use the paintbrush to transfer pollen, which is impossible to clean out completely, so even if I were making deliberate crosses, I'd never really know if I'd gotten the cross I intended to make with all the flowers on the spadix.
Schlums don't have those problems -- the pollen is obvious, they usually produce multiple blooms per plant so there are plenty of chances to try, it's usually clear within a week and a half or so whether a pollination has been successful, and I can grab the flowers and make deliberate reciprocal crosses without involving the pollen of another seedling.

Paul said...

Honestly, the best instrument for marking tags -- other than the print-it-out types you mentioned (which I don't do for the lack of said printer) -- is plain old #2 pencil. Occasionally, I come across a plastic tag that is too smooth for the graphite to rub off the pencil tip. In those cases I rub the tag back-and-forth a few times across some medium-fine grade sandpaper.

The broad twist ties I mentioned are paper coated or have a square/rectangular section of paper at each end of the twist. Surprisingly I haven't seen a huge issue with the paper disintegrating under my watering regimen. If that should be a concern, those ends could likely just be "painted" with something like a clear lacquer or cheap clear nail polish after having written on them to make them water impermeable.

As I mentioned, it comes down largely to how accurate of a record you'd like to keep. One benefit is that if you find a particular parent has traits you'd like to try with another plant, you can make yourself a reminder. Also if a particular parent's traits seem unusually dominant or recessive or just plain seems to predominantly give rise to a bunch of "toads" (or "gems") it is easier to keep track of it for future breedings. Then too if you find that there is a certain trait you find particularly appealing, you may find accurate ID and records handy for "line breeding".

"...and odds are that I'd be able to remember the ones I wanted to propagate anyway"
Famous "last words" -- LOL. And how many times do you actually remember which parents you actually used? ;) I know you have mentioned in a number of posts on this seedling or that one that you weren't sure which you had crossed to get that particular offspring. Been there and done that myself on any number of occasions ... at the time of crossing so sure that "I'll remember" and then a few months later cussing myself out for NOT writing it down.

I have to use the paintbrush to transfer pollen, which is impossible to clean out completely, so even if I were making deliberate crosses, I'd never really know if I'd gotten the cross I intended to make with all the flowers on the spadix.
Have you tried the uber cheap paintbrushes often found at dollar stores? You could use one for a specific pollen parent and label the brush or throw it away after use. If you were feeling particularly thrifty and "green" you could try making disposable "Sheba hair" brushes.

Ivynettle said...

For writing on plant tags, at least the ones we use at work, pencils work best. Doesn't ever fade or wash off. But of course it depends on what kind of tags you use, what they're made for (the ones we have have a slightly rough surface so you can use pencils on them).

Claude said...

I used to just write on the side of the pot with marker... if markers are fading too quick for you, go to a craft store and get paint pens. Of youre gonna use plastic tags, cut up laundry detergent bottles... thats the cest i can come up with off the top of my head. And btw, im really enjoying these schlum posts.

Melody said...

I haven't had a problem with pencil staying on plastic tags for writing names, except for plants that have been in full sun for years outdoors. If I notice the pencil fading, I write over it, never had an issue losing info that way. I'll also second Paul's twist tie idea, they're light, and if tied well shouldn't fall off. You could do the string idea and get a ton of different colors to code them that way, but it might be needlessly more expensive and you'd have a ton of extra string.

Anyway, I love the orange Schlumbergera. Had looked for a nice orange one this year when they were on sale everywhere and couldn't find any. No yellow either. I'm excited to see what TinEye names the rest of your seedlings. That's a hilarious idea and I hope for my amusement, the pictures and names get even wackier!

Pat the Plant said...

I usually cut notches in the rims of the pots to remind me which pots I sowed with which species. If you are only distinguishing between two it will be easier, just one notch or two by the plant.