|Spring is sprung, Amphicarpaea style|
I have several varieties of this noble amphicarpic bean and it occurs to me that I ought to make an attempt to compare them in something resembling a systematic way. I already know that some die back more rapidly than others; what I've never got around to doing is actually investigating their relative productivity. Until now.
Because of the activities of the voles, I've taken to growing them in pots in the back yard. I'm told that voles in North America cache the underground beans for hard times. Our voles seem to be more of the live-fast-die-young persuasion, because they have managed to eat every single one I have planted over the last few years; they make no more attempt to put provisions aside for the winter than Aesop's grasshopper did. Not that starvation seems to threaten their population - they usually transfer their attentions to the oca crop to tide them over.
If anything, 'Gardens North' seems a little small and rather late; is this because I gave the best specimens away to various people earlier in the year or just an adaptation to its chilly birthplace in Ontario? And I'm a little short of 'Saratoga Battlefield' which I collected myself in 2008. Maybe the shame of the British defeat at that location has seriously inhibited its growth, but I've only managed to get two underground beans from this
|Amphicarpaea 'Nova Scotia' safe in a greenhouse|
As to experimental design - well, apart from the Nova Scotian accession, they're in the same growing medium, same size pots, with between two and six replicates of each variety. That's about as sophisticated as my experiments ever get. Still, if I keep an eye on the plants, their flowering times and (breaking the habits of a lifetime) actually weigh the resultant crop, I might learn something about their relative merits; I could use that information to inform any breeding programme I susbequently develop. Talks about talks, I know, but one has to start somewhere.
|Setting up the experiment|
While I'm waiting for the universe to slake my insatiable desire for additional Amphicarpaea varieties, you might like to consider this: there's good evidence that A. bracteata is actually composed of two or more cryptic species. This means that there are reproductively isolated, morphologically dissimilar lineages, which although superficially resembling each other, are actually distinguishable to the expert eye; I can see myself spending more time I don't have mastering the intricacies of this arcane art. Someone has to, I suppose. And could it be that 'Saratoga Battlefield' is one of the less competitive lineages described here? Nothing is as it seems in the complicated world of Amphicarpaea breeding.