Monday, 6 June 2011
Have Hopniss, Am Happy
It's not the first time I've grown hopniss from seeds. Back in the early 1990s, I obtained a batch from Bill Blackmon at the Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. They had themselves a serious breeding project, which was going great guns and was all set to catapult this plant into the mainstream when, horror of horrors, funding was withdrawn; Apios slithered back into the swamps of Louisiana and beneath the waters of oblivion.
To be honest, the Louisiana seedlings grew very poorly for me. This is hardly surprising considering their provenance: more Clifton Chenier and crawdads than clotted cream and pasties. But the lure of a nitrogen fixing root crop proved too much and well, here I am again, sowing hopniss seeds and hoping for a different outcome. Madness - perhaps, but fun - certainly.
Unlike the LSU seeds, these are from plants in various parts of New England and therefore might be more suited to our climate. In fact, the "Deerfield River" accession was collected at what is currently the world's most northerly known location of wild diploid plants; this is a clean fifty miles further north of any other sites, near Charlemont MA and not far from the Vermont border. Thanks are due, once again, to Bryan Connolly, who very generously keeps me supplied with seeds and site information. Triploid plants occur right up into Canada, but these are sterile, so present Radix with some problems when it comes to a breeding programme. They are, however, hardy and particularly vigorous, as polyploid plants often are.
As to these diploid seedlings, I have no idea as to whether their northerly origins will equip them any better for the rigours of our climate, but it might just make breeding better varieties a possibility. There's only one way to find out - so come on now hopniss and let the bon temps rouler.