potential flower colors question

Jim McKenney jimmckenney@jimmckenney.com
Fri, 19 Dec 2008 19:40:09 PST
Justin, as with  Hannon this is hardly my field of expertise, but I do know
a thing or two about this topic.


If you are thinking about breeding plants yourself, there is one big mistake
you can avoid. There are two big groups of flower pigments, the anthocyanins
and the anthoxanthins. As the names suggest, the anthocyanins are
responsible for purples, magentas, blues, and blue-reds. The anthoxanthins
are responsible, as the name suggests, for yellows and the reds and oranges
with a strong yellow component. 


Many genera have species in which one or the other type of pigment prevails.
When you cross a species with predominately anthocyanin based color with a
species with anthoxanthin based color, you get mud in the first generation.
Well not mud, but you get clouded, smudgy, smoky, muted colors which
generally lack brilliance. If you would like to see some of these colors,
try to find old (pre WWII) cultivars of bearded iris or asiatic hybrid
lilies from the 1950s and early 1960s. The modern crocus hybrid ‘Advance’
provides another example. 


As Hannon hinted, you’ll discover that this is a vast topic. Use wikipedia
as a start. 


By the way, I don’t really carry around details like this in my head; I just
happened to be reading the wikipedia account of anthocyanins the other day
in connection to another topic. 


Another thing you’ll discover there is the way pH influences color: change
the pH in which the pigments float and you get sometimes big color changes.
Back in the old days people used to ad baking soda to the water in which
cabbage and other vegetables were cooked: it tended to intensify the green
color. I think I’ve read that red cabbage cooked with baking soda turns
startling and un-appetizing blue (but check that one out). .  


There is a fascinating world of stuff to know about this. Good luck and have
fun with it. 


Jim McKenney


Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA zone

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