In support of this claim, Frank cites a lemony scent to the flowers and an overall general unease about their "gizz". That and the fact that he might have transferred the pollen from the unidentified crop wild relative while he was carrying out hand pollinations.
Actually, part of me is delighted by this news - that genes from another species may have been incorporated into yacon's genome. This is, after all, the reason plant breeders scour the globe, concocting mashups and fiddling with their GIS in order to locate drought, cold, heat and disease tolerance genes in crop wild relatives.
The other half of me is dreading the discovery that, in addition to all those potential benefits, they'll have inherited a less endearing trait common to most other Smallanthus species: the lack of big, fat storage roots. I fear that some embarrassing and credibility-reducing retraction will have to follow and my reputation amongst my peers will be mud.
My plants have just started flowering and following Frank's revelations I decided to take a closer look. I can't pick up that lemony scent Frank describes. This could be a result of a phlegmish cold I picked up in Ghent and which seems to have dulled my sense of smell. Olfactory limitations aside, there are some noticeable differences.
|Left to right; white, "morado", "yacon" seedling|
In fact, they remind me a bit of bearsfoot aka leafcup, Smallanthus uvedalius, a North American wild flower, with a wide distribution - but only a bit. Maybe they look like one or other of yacon's putative parents such as S. macroscyphus or S. siegesbeckius.
So now when I look back and forth between the true yacons and the lush growth of the impostors, I recall that memorable scene at the end of the film Spartacus. In a show of solidarity with their leader, the other slaves claim, one by one, that they are Spartacus and in an act of splendid collective suicide are all crucified along the Appian Way. I doubt whether the A30 would make an acceptable substitute, but Smallanthus does sound a bit like a trident and net-wielding Thracian. It matters little: if I lift them in due course and find they're all tops and no tubers, they'll soon be pushing up the daisies.