Monday, 21 September 2009

OCAsional Update 2) Podzapoppin

A week of high pressure fortuitously coincided with a week's holiday which I spent engaged in some lazy botanising far from the oca pods and the rest of the Radix menagerie. As I suspected, those oca pods, like time and tide, wait for no man. On my return, a quick glance amongst the lush trifoliate foliage revealed the characteristically nondescript appearance of spent oca pods. Just a few, but it hurt. Those accursed pods may go out with a bang, albeit little, but there's precious little evidence to show for it - just tatty little bits of desiccated calyx. This won't do. I'm not spending all those hours exercising my droit de seigneur without the satisfaction of raising the offspring as my own.

So as an interim measure I harvested the pods that I deemed closest to detonation. I'll be damned if I let any more seeds escape me.

As I may have mentioned, oca pods are annoyingly small structures, hanging either singly or in small clusters from a single stalk. I have previously tried making my own little bags out of horticultural fleece for the purpose of catching the seeds before they disperse, but my needlework was so shockingly hamfisted that I gave up.

I have since read a paper describing the use of pergamine envelopes (AKA glassine) to cover the pods and prevent the precious seeds going AWOL. Beloved of philatelists as well as phytologists, they are ideal for storing small quantities of tiny seeds. Somewhere in the makeshift Svalbard vault where I store my genebank (currently a cupboard under the stairs), I recalled secreting a box of said glassine envelopes. A bit of concerted fossicking yielded up that which I was searching for. Excellent. I took a few envelopes out to the plants. To my chagrin, they were a bit too large for the purpose and my first attempts produced an effect somewhat like a tea clipper under full sail. I feared that the poor plants might be bodily uprooted with the next blast from the Atlantic. A few moments of head scratching (half an hour passes very quickly when problem solving) and I decided to cut the bags in half.

This gave me two for the price of one, as the top end, with the sealable flap could be closed to produce a mirror image of the bottom half.








Now, with the aid of my trusty electrician's tape, I was able to fold the bags and hold them in place at the junction of the peduncle and pedicels.












I'm hoping the tape will act like a little roof, preventing the bags filling up with water. I think it might rain all through September.

















Tree dressing is curious custom that persists in parts of Britain as well as in numerous locations worldwide. My oca plants now look like a leprechaun or Cornish pisky has been decorating them, or maybe a Buddhist sect has taken up residence. I just hope that the method works like it did for the researchers in Ecuador. I suppose I could always leave a votive offering for the little people............

4 comments:

Madeline McKeever said...

I have some oca plants. I saw an insect in the flower of one of them today. It occurred to me that I should try and pollinate them. The insect spent ages in one flower, and eventually I decided to go and get my camera. Of course it was gone when I got back, so I didn't see if it visited other flowers. Later I found a paint brush abd went out to try and transfer pollen but the flowers had closed up. Maybe tomorrow......

W. said...

I wish you well in your pursuit of new local germplasm. My yacons are flowering, but it has occurred to me that I have no idea how/when to harvest seed for experimenting (not the same as sunflowers, it seems...) all I can find are statements of difficulty.

Rhizowen said...

Hi W

Thanks for your comment.

There seems to be little information on yacon pollination and seed biology. New varieties, such as Sarada Otome have been bred in Japan, so it's clearly possible. They crossed two varieties:
http://www.fao.org/agris/search/display.do?f=2008/JP/JP0809.xml;JP2007005085

Seems like seed fertility was very low.

You may have you seen the following:
http://www.cipotato.org/artc/artc_hermann/yacon.pdf

Well worth a read IMO



Good luck and let me know when you get your first yacon seedlings

Rhizowen said...

Hello Madeline

Glad you've got ocas. Do you have more than one variety? I think it's well worth trying to pollinate the flowers if you do. Sometime in the early afternoon would be best, when the anthers are ripe. If you can be bothered, it would be a good idea to work out the stylar arrangemnents of your varieties and pollinate accordingly.

What kind of insect was it that you saw in the flower? My hunch is that generalist pollinators such as bumble bees and hoverflies will adapt quite well to oca flowers.

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