Four o’clock is famously genetically variable.

Flowers produce seed. That is their priority. Flowers that do not rely primarily on wind for pollination are colorful and fragrant merely to attract pollinators. They deteriorate as seed develops after pollination. Many flowers finish bloom between summer and autumn. This can generate an abundance of true to type seed to potentially collect for the next season.

Seed of most wild plants is naturally true to type. That means that it generally grows into plants that are genetically and physically very similar to the original plants that produced it. Genetic aberration is rare. Unless such aberration is an asset, such as floral color that pollinators prefer, it dissipates within a few generations. This likely continues indefinitely.

Many popular plants are simple varieties of wilder plants. These varieties are products of selection rather than breeding. Although technically true to type, their progeny can revert to wilder versions of their species, possibly within their first generations. White California poppy, without culling, reverts to genetically stable orange within only a few generations.

Of course, the transition from white to orange California poppies might not be a problem. Likewise, basic and exclusively yellow and orange nasturtium may be no less appealing than predecessors with more elaborate color. Potential reversion may not dissuade seed collection. Money plant, rose campion, white phlox and campanula are more true to type.

Many other popular plants are cultivars, which are cultivated varieties. Most cultivars are not true to type, so are reliant on vegetative propagation for perpetuation. Therefore, they are clones that are genetically identical copies of their original single parents. Almost all exhibit desirable characteristics that do not transmit reliably to seed, such as variegation.

Cultivars may be genetically unstable because of extensive breeding, or sterile because of hybridization. Canna exemplifies both categories. Most cultivars with lavish bloom are mostly sterile hybrids. Their seed is rare and unpredictable. Cultivars with modest bloom produce seed profusely. Although also potentially unpredictable, much of it is reliably true to type.

2 thoughts on “True To Type Seed Collection

    1. Reversion is common, but does not explain how some flowers bloom completely differently from their parents as well as the ancestors of their parents. I am unfamiliar with coral vine, so do not know what color their ancestors bloom.

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