Horridculture – Fruity Fads

90417Pluots, plumcots, apriums and peacharines! Who comes up with this stuff?! Aren’t good old fashioned plums, apricots, peaches and nectarines good enough? Who decides that these weird hybrids are somehow better than their parents? Some of them are actually quite weird, or downright ugly. Several do not even look like they would taste good. It may be an acquired taste; but I have all the good taste that I need without acquiring any more.
Some old classic cultivars (cultivated varieties) of fruit were develop centuries ago. More have been evolving from those ancestors since then. Some were intentionally bred from parents with desirable qualities. Others just grew incidentally where their seed fell, and were found to be somehow better than their parents. Some were merely discovered as natural occurring mutants, and perpetuated for their superior qualities. It is a slow process.
So, putting two different kinds of fruits together, or finding an aberration of a single type of fruit, is nothing new. Tangelos were created by hybridizing Mandarin oranges with pomelos or grapefruits. Ever-bearing ‘Eureka’ lemon was perpetuated from a mutant of the seasonally bearing ‘Lisbon’ lemon. This is how cultivars evolve and develop. Generally, newer cultivars become popular because they are somehow superior to their ancestors.
Yes, somehow ‘superior’ to their ancestors. Who decided that a hideous hybrid of a plum and an apricot was somehow better than either a perfectly good plum or apricot? Furthermore, what evidence was there for such a weird claim? Even farthermore (if that is a word) how and why do so many people believe this evidence?
I was still growing citrus (trees not fruit) back in the early 1990s when the ‘Cara Cara’ pink orange was popularized. Yeah, a ‘pink’ ‘orange’. It is really just a pink mutant of the formerly more popular ‘Washington’ navel orange. We could not grow enough of it. It was just too popular. Some people really seem to believe that it is somehow better than ‘Washington’ and other navel oranges. I can’t argue. They certainly know what they like.
To me, it has a milder flavor than ‘Washington’. Yes, it tastes about as bland as it looks; pink.90320thumb


Horridculture – Bad Seed

P80317+California poppies are like no other wildflower. They are so perfectly bright orange, and look almost synthetically uniform in profusion, as if painted onto coastal plains and hillsides. They may be a bit more yellowish in some regions, or a bit deeper orange in others, but they are always bright and strikingly uniform.
Genetic variation is naturally very rare. I can remember hiking with my Pa up to the (lesser known) Portola Monument in the hills behind Montara, and finding a few pale white poppies, and even fewer pale purple poppies. It was like finding four leaf clovers! Genetic variants among California poppies are not quite as rare as four leaf clovers are, but finding a few of both white and purple was really strange. I never found a pink one though.
Nowadays, poppies can bloom in all sorts of shades and hues or orange, yellow, red, pink and soft purple, as well as creamy white. Some bloom with fluffy double flowers. Of course, all this variety is not natural. California poppies were bred to do this.
The potential problem with such breeding is that California poppy is naturally very prolific with seed. Any of these weirdly bred varieties could escape into the wild and interbreed with wild poppies, causing them to be more variable, and interfere with the ecosystem.
The problem is not just with California poppies. Many plants get bred extensively enough to interfere with how they behave in the wild if they happen to escape cultivation.
Fortunately for California poppies, the weird new varieties do not really get very far in the wild. The are not true-to-type, so revert back to their original bright orange in just a few generations, even without outside influence. If pollinators do not recognize their unfamiliar color and form, they are less likely to get pollinated to continue to tamper with the ecology. In fact, wild California poppies still have the advantage in that regard.
This yellow California poppy with an orange center is a second generation seedling, and is already halfway between the original yellow variety, and the wild orange.

Horridculture – Promiscuity


71206Nomenclature of the botanical sort was so much simpler back when we studied it back in the 1980s. It was intended to be like that. It was how the various specie of plants were identified and classified. There were certain rules that simply made sense. After ‘family’, plants were classified into general ‘genera’, and then further classified into specific ‘specie’. Some specie were further classified into ‘varieties’ and ‘cultivars’. (Cultivars are simply ‘cultivated varieties’ that need to be perpetuated by cloning because they are too genetically unstable to be true-to-type from seed.)

The genus name is always first. The species name is always second. Because they are Latin, they should be italicized. Any variety or cultivar names are last, not italicized, and in semi-quotations.

Back in the 1980s, there were a few specie that did not quite fit into such neat classification. Intergeneric hybrids (between two parents of different genera) were designated by an ‘X’ before the genus name, such as X Fatshedera lizei, which is a hybrid between Fatsia japonica and Hedera helix. Interspecific hybrids (between twp parents of different specie) were designated by an ‘X’ before the species name, such as Platanus X acerifolia, which is a hybrid between two different specie of the same genus of Platanus. Then there are different species that hybridize freely, but are still designated as separate specie, such as Washingtonia robusta and Washingtonia filifera, but that is another story.

Nowadays, with so much weirdly promiscuous breeding, it is difficult to know what specie or even genera some of the modern varieties and cultivars fit into. Consequently, species names are often omitted, and genus names are sometimes changed. It is getting difficult to know the differences between the two formerly distinct genera of Gaillardia and Rudbekia.

What is even sillier is that all this is happening while ‘sustainability’ and gardening for ‘bees’ are such fads. Weirdly bred specie . . . or whatever they are, are likely unable produce viable seed, so are just the opposite of sustainable. They only sustain their own marketability by ensuring the need for replacement. Some make no pollen for the bees that visit the flowers expecting to find some. Some make pollen of questionable nutritional value, or serve it in complicated flowers that might be difficult for bees to navigate.

There certainly are advantages to simplicity.71129

Apologies for the delay of posting ‘Horridculture’, which is normally posted on Wednesday. I was unable to write, so advanced the article that was intended for today to Wednesday, and finished writing this rant for today.