Monday, December 21, 2015

Unfinished Business: the parent Schlumbergeras

So the original plan for this post was to show you pictures of, and talk about, the sixteen named varieties of Schlumbergera I have. That's not the post you're going to get, though, because:

Six of the sixteen were brand-new cuttings in October, and although a few have budded, I don't expect the buds to open. I mean, maybe, but I'm trying not to get my hopes up.

I didn't actually take photos of many of the rest of them this year. For one thing, the blooms mostly look the same from one year to the next, so there's not much point to re-photographing them. For another, the thing about having lots of Schlumbergeras is that they all bloom at once, which means that during the time when I could have been documenting the 2015 blooms of all the parent Schlumbergeras, I was running around trying to get all the seedlings photographed. So this will be a significantly abbreviated version of the post I intended to write, and instead of sixteen plants, you'll see six.

NOID red-pink

I actually bought a new Schlumbergera this year; I think this is the first time that's happened since 2010. It fills a gap in the rainbow of Schlumbergera colors for me, and it was only $5.1

I may have been so excited about the color that I wasn't paying attention to the condition of the stems. (The shriveled stems may be the result of the car ride home, or the plant's location in the plant room. It certainly got worse after this photo, which was taken more or less immediately after it got home, so probably it's my fault.)

I'm not worried about the long-term survival of the plant, which is full enough that I'm sure some part of it will survive regardless, but I'm a little concerned about the fruits being able to hold on long enough to ripen. It produced enough fruits that I'm sure I'll have seeds to sow, but I'm more interested in some combinations than others, and since I don't know which fruits come from which pollen parents, I want them all to ripen.

NOID yellow

The NOID yellow produced a decent number of flowers this year, but its timing sucked: most of them were over before the other plants started to bloom. Worse, most of the flowers were spent before I thought to start writing down which crosses I was attempting. My guesses, based on which plants started blooming early, are: 'Caribbean Dancer,' 018A "Nudibranch," 082A "Strawberry Madeleine," 025A "Clownfish," 099A "Dessert Room," and NOID magenta. But I'll probably never know which is which.2

I don't think the NOID yellow has been a strong spring bloomer before, but I can't remember for sure, so there's a chance that maybe I'll get to make some recorded crosses later.


The only real story with 'Stephanie' is that she's really come into her own this year: finally large enough to produce a decent number of blooms (though of course no multi-bloom or whole-plant photo. Sorry.). They were all streaky like this. The color isn't very interesting, being close to some of the 'Caribbean Dancer' seedlings (especially 022A "Sad Tomato"), but again, a deeper gene pool is a good thing.

NOID lavender-pink

Last spring, I got a cutting from Virginia Burton of a plant with lavender/pink/lilac blooms. This is her picture of the original plant (with some color-adjustment):

And this is what most of its blooms have looked like for me, this fall:

NOID lavender-pink, 22 November 2015.

It's not that there's no pink at all, but if I didn't know it was supposed to be lavender-pink, I'd call this a white bloom. I mean, my actual NOID white, which at one time truly was producing entirely-white blooms --

NOID white, January 2010.

-- has produced quite a few blooms this year with some pink on the "tubes." Not quite this pink, sure, but there's enough pink on the "white" plant that the pinkest "white" blooms look a lot like the "lavender-pink" blooms. And the last of the "lavender-pink" blooms was basically pure white:

NOID lavender-pink, 13 December 2015.

So there's enough overlap between the two to make it plausible that they're the same variety. I doubt that they are, but I can't prove that they're not.

In some ways, this sort of thing is a nice surprise. It's always interesting when a plant doesn't behave like it's supposed to, and now I have a mystery to solve. In other ways, well, I was sort of hoping for a color I didn't already have. So it winds up sort of a wash: not upset, not pleased.

NOID lavender-pink, 22 November 2015.

I've attempted to cross the NOID white and NOID lavender-pink together, so I may be able to determine whether they're the same variety within a few weeks.3 If not, what accounts for the different coloration? (I may never be able to answer this.4)

NOID lavender-pink, 22 November 2015.

The tendency of Schlumbergeras to do things they're not supposed to do, or things they've never done previously, will come up again in a little bit.

x buckleyi

X buckleyi is another one finally coming into its own; I've seen seven eight blooms from it so far this year (The previous record was two.), and I've of course attempted to pollinate all of them because it's what I do. The potential pollen parents: 021B "Birthday Dinner," 025A "Clownfish," 031A "Baby Carrots," 078A "Art Party," 083A "Psychedelic Bunny," 'Caribbean Dancer,' 'Exotic Dancer,' and NOID white. Two of those (probably from "Birthday Dinner," "Clownfish," and/or 'Exotic Dancer') have pretty definitely taken; the others were recent enough attempts that it's not yet clear whether pollination happened.

I'm a little hesitant to include x buckleyi in the breeding, for various reasons. I'm not crazy about its drooping habit -- the more upright S. truncata hybrids look nicer to my eye, and I know they're more commercially viable. I'm not that into the rounded stem segments. It's a pain to bring into bloom because it's fussy about day length.5 (At one time, I worried about breeding it with other plants because it's supposed to be a true Christmas-blooming Christmas cactus, and would therefore not usually bloom at the right time to cross, or would produce seedlings that bloomed late. It actually bloomed at more or less the same time as all the others, though, so that turns out not to be a problem.) None of these are qualities I'd be happy to see in a seedling.

At the same time, though, the flowers have a slightly different shape to them, and the colors are nice. I especially like the slight orange tinge to the petals at the back of the flower. It would be interesting to see this sort of coloration in a seedling that wasn't so picky about day length. So I'm going to experiment with it a little bit anyway. Check back in 2019.

NOID peach

I have two NOID peach plants, which may or may not be the same variety. Someday I should attempt to cross them to find out, but the newer, smaller plant has only produced one bloom in its history here, so it could be a while before I get the chance.

The older, larger plant has been my most variable parent. The blooms are typically a solid light orange, like so:

Probably 2010?

but occasionally they've been more pink than orange. (Hence calling it the "NOID salmon" or "NOID salmon-peach" for a few years before settling on "NOID peach" this year.) Lately, it's been peach, no pink, but even then, the color varies. In 2009, the flowers had an even, solid color, like in the above photo, but this year, the pigment has been concentrated near the petal margins. The petal centers have flecks of orange in them, but are otherwise white or very pale pink. And this is true for every single flower.

And again, I have no idea what this signifies. The plant doesn't appear to be in very good shape: the segments are slightly shriveled, and it's not using as much water as it used to. So it may be a stress response, because of the roots rotting or something along those lines.

Also pointing toward a stress response: the NOID peach has produced a lot of blooms all at once. This is sometimes plantspeak for "well, you've finally done it, you've killed me. You want flowers? Here, have some fucking. flowers. Have so many flowers you drown in them. Have so many flowers you choke on them. I'd rather die than let you keep treating me like this."

But lots of flowers could just mean that the plant is older and larger than it used to be, and therefore capable of producing more flowers. (Plants think they're good communicators, but they're actually very bad at it. Lucky for us, since if they ever get organized and really come for us, we're completely hosed.6)

I've seen streaky blooms before, on a number of plants (most notably 'Caribbean Dancer,' 'Exotic Dancer,' NOID magenta, NOID red-pink, 'Stephanie,' and 088 "Cyborg Unicorn"), but of those, only 'Stephanie' approaches this amount of speckling. Nor do the streak-prone plants have anything in common as far as I can tell. They don't all appear to be dying, they're not all close to the floor, they're not all exposed to a lot of direct sun, etc. Nor do all of the plants capable of streaking actually do it all of the time: NOID magenta and 'Stephanie' are always streaky; 088A "Cyborg Unicorn" and 'Caribbean Dancer' only do it occasionally, the NOID red-pink is too new for me to know what's normal, and the NOID peach has been doing it lately but didn't a few years ago. So there's another mystery to try to figure out. (Have you observed streaking on your own plants, ever? Was there anything weird about them -- did they seem stressed or anything?)


1 (Reha Greenhouses, Wellman, IA, for anyone who might be in the area. Run, don't walk.)
2 I've decided that what I've been doing with the Anthuriums -- known seed parent, unknown pollen parent -- has been working well enough that I can do the same with the Schlumbergeras.
The reasons I don't try to make deliberate crosses with the Anthuriums are: 1) doing so would mean washing the paintbrush out every time I switched to a new source of pollen. 2) I'd have fewer opportunities to attempt crosses, since any given bloom only produces pollen for a short period, and only accepts pollen for a short period, so if I try to pollinate A with B's pollen, and I'm too early and A wasn't accepting pollen yet, by the time I get around to trying to pollinate A again, B probably isn't shedding pollen anymore, and the whole bloom goes to waste. Whereas if I'm indiscriminately pollinating everything with whatever pollen I have on hand, I'm much more likely to get some berries from each bloom, even if they're not the berries I would have hoped for.
With Schlumbergeras, I don't need a paintbrush, because I can make reciprocal crosses between flowers by brushing the flowers together, so pollen purity isn't an issue. Plus, even though the pollen-shedding and pollen-receiving periods are both shorter than in Anthuriums, Schlumbergeras produce so many blooms at once that if there's a specific combination I'm interested in making, I'm much more likely to be able to attempt it. (Also, making reciprocal crosses means that even if it's too late for A to take B's pollen, it may not be too late for B to take A's pollen, so I have better odds of making a cross even when the timing isn't ideal.)
So it would be much easier for me to keep track of the pollen parents. I haven't been trying, partly because I don't want to tie even more pieces of yarn onto the seedlings, and partly because in the past it hasn't really mattered -- I'd been thinking of myself mostly as an Anthurium breeder who was dabbling in Schlumbergeras, so I wasn't that interested in the backgrounds of the Schlumbergeras. (Lately I'm thinking of myself more as a Schlumbergera breeder who dabbles in Anthuriums; I'll explain why in a later post.)
In the future, I'm probably going to try harder to keep track of which fruits come from which crosses, but this year, I only kept a list of which crosses I attempted to make, without trying to mark their locations. But my original point was that with the NOID yellow, I don't even have that much, since it was done blooming before I started recording the attempted pollinations.
3 Schlumbergera genetics prevents self-pollination, so if a cross is successful, they definitely aren't the same variety.
If a cross fails, they may be the same variety, but it's not as certain. The genes used to prevent self-pollination have a limited number of types (I think I remember reading that there were 12 or 13?), so there's always about an 8% chance that two randomly-selected but different plants will just happen to match on these genes.
(I think. I don't actually know that the 12 or 13 different versions of the compatibility gene are equally abundant in the Schlumbergera-breeding world. If one happens to be a lot more widespread than the others, then the odds of a pollination failing due to coincidence become a lot higher.)
UPDATED 20 December: they are plausibly the same variety; the fruits dropped off. This could be the result of them getting bumped or pulled accidentally, since they were still fairly large and green when they came off (when a cross fails, usually it remains attached, and the developing fruit shrinks and shrivels before dropping off). I may or may not get the chance to try again in the spring; we'll see.
4 I don't know what factors influence bloom color, aside from one: colder temperatures are supposed to produce pinker blooms. So if Ginny's plant is kept colder than mine are when buds are setting, that could explain what we're seeing. I'm not actually sure what temperatures my plants reach in the fall, though: the plant room overall gets down into the mid-60s F sometimes, for sure, and particular locations within the room probably get colder than that, but I don't know how much colder or for how long.
This can't be the whole story, though; as mentioned in the last-year's-seedlings posts (part 1, part 2), 061A "Leather Fairy" and 078A "Art Party" came up significantly pinker this year than last year, and 073A "Laurie Anderson" was less pink. And they were all in the same locations they were in last year, and are pretty close together (all within about 12 inches / 30 cm of each other). So there must be some other factors that can influence coloration. Maybe light intensity? Day temperatures? Age of plant?
5 Part of my success with it this year is because one of the side effects of redoing the basement shelves was that I had to take a light from the plant room, two shelves above x buckleyi, to use in the basement.
6 Shyamalan 2008.


Ivynettle said...

I only ever had one or two flowers on my x buckleyi, until last year, when I was gone for most of October, so no-one turned on any light (I try to keep the light off in the bedroom, where the plant is, but I guess the light from the hallway is still enough to be a problem.)
And even then it didn't bloom until long after Christmas. Which, now that I think about it, might be a genetic thing, maybe it just is that slow, because the parent plant was also blooming when I took the cutting, and that was early February, in a greenhouse also used for growing poinsettias, so they wouldn't have had any artificial light on there, either.

Virginia Burton said...

Despite the picture showing the plant in front of the fireplace, it lived in an unheated glassed-in breezeway, so it got pretty chilled at night and also got some direct sun during the afternoon. I just gave the remainder of the plant away yesterday, but I checked the blooms before it left the house and they were about the same as the original photo.