Monday, December 15, 2014

Hybrid sunflower roots.

1. Plant 3, roots & tuber.
A few weeks ago, we had a solid freeze and the sunflower season came to an end. I dropped by the old place and dug up my sunflowers to see if any of the F1s had developed tubers. The largest hybrid (plant 3) produced one skinny tuber, while the smaller two plants appeared to produce no tubers at all. This was a disappointment, but a more detailed examination of the remaining plant material led to some positive surprises.

2. Plant 1, seeds.
The first plant looked very much like the Helianthus tuberosus mother, but with more red pigment on the stems. I had assumed this was the result of some recombination of maternal alleles and was at best a control to compare the hybrid plants against. When I looked at the remaining two dried flowers on this plant and found them to be full of seeds (image #2), I realized this plant is likely to also be a hybrid.
3. Plant 3, root bud.

The plant that grew the tuber in image #1 also produced a second type of perennial structure, a new bud growing from the old root crown (image #3). This is a structure that isn't seen in either parent species. This feature has been observed before in crosses of this type, however, so I should have expected the possibility.

4. Plant 2, roots.
The other two plants had mildly-swollen roots (images #4 & #5) that have appeared alive when I checked on them. I don't know if they will show new growth in the spring, or if the roots will at some point finally start to rot.
5. Plant 1, roots.

I'm storing the tuber and all the root structures in a dedicated small cube-fridge over the winter. This should keep them safe from the mice that wander through my basement and allow me to grow at least one of them again next year alongside additional F1s from the ~70 seeds that remain from the first cross.

References:
  1. H. annuss x H. tuberosus : bulbnrose.x10.mx/Heredity/sunflowerXchoke/sunflowerXchoke.html