Monday, 30 August 2010

Yond Yacons Have a Lush and Leafy Look

The yacon seedlings I planted out several months ago have made steady, though not spectacular, progress.  I attribute this to their emaciated state at the time of planting, the cold, dry weather we had thereafter and the lack of space I was able to give them.  Excuses over.





Height about 1.5m
With better growing conditions, I'm sure they would now be towering above me, probably studded with flowers and magnetically pulling passing posses of hoverflies and bees. Dream on.  They are, however, showing a healthy crop of leaves and have finally taken over the bed in which they were planted with the correct yaconly aplomb.

My seeds, you may remember, came from Frank van Keirsbilck, who managed to secure a crop last year.  He must dwell in what is, compared to here, some kind of Belgian banana belt, with wall-to-wall sunshine and soaring temperatures.  At least that's how I imagined it as he described the weather in Flanders, last August, while in Cornwall, we sulked under a pall of cloud, mist and drizzle.  Seed set here was, unsurprisingly, zero.

I am satisfied, however, that yacon breeding here in Europe's Wild Wet exists within the rootin-tootin realms of distinct possibility.  Further east, on the outskirts of London town, Ian at Growing Oca has had yacons flowering for several weeks now, although only of one variety - yacon is said to be an outcrosser, so you really need two varieties  that flower at the same time.  So far, Ian's second variety has failed to oblige.  Yacon has a simple, yet somehow, dastardly, incompatibility mechanism - the disk and ray florets are different sexes and are ready at different times.  Because the females, located in the ray florets mature first, before the boys in the disk florets can produce their pollen, it is hard for self-pollination to occur. Good news for genetic diversity in yacon, bad news for would-be plant breeders.

I was all ready to bemoan the strictly stunted and non-reproductive status of my yacons, when I noticed some flower buds nestling in the tops of one of the seedlings.  It's only the end of August, so maybe there is still time for a spectacular display and a healthy yield of those coal-black yacon pips that Frank produced last year.  

5 comments:

Emma said...

I checked yesterday and could see no signs of flowers on my yacon - no doubt they are too small ;) Mind you, last year they didn't show any signs of flowering until very late - they left it too late!

Vegetable Heaven said...

I haven't grown Yacon but I hope the growing season isn't over yet. Lets hope for more action on the Yacon front.

IAP said...

What's needed for the busy plant breeder is a Yacon internet dating service, facilitated by a motor-cycle dispatch pollen delivery service.

orrflo said...

I still have some doubts about this outcrossing, maybe it needs two flowering plants, but not necessarily of two different varieties... I may find out this year, although they seem to be flowering later than last year, and they certainly are smaller due to this dry summer...

IAP said...

I have two plants of the same variety flowering right next to each other now, so shall be keeping an eye on them.
One is 7 feet tall!

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