Fun with Moraea hybrids

Michael Mace
Sun, 29 May 2011 01:39:22 PDT
I've written here before about my little experiments with hybridizing
Moraeas.  I made some progress this year, and wanted to do an update.


The Moraeas are some of my favorite bulbs, because they are easy to grow in
my part of California, and their colors are spectacular, especially the
so-called "Peacock" Moraeas like M. villosa.  I've now grown most of the
commonly-available Peacocks, and I was running out of interesting new
Moraeas to try.  So I decided I should make some hybrids.  I was inspired in
part by Moraea "Zoe," created by Bill Dijk, which has some of the most
extravagant stripes of any bulb flower:….  Dirk
Wallace has also posted photos of a few lust-inducing hybrids, such as this


Many of my crosses failed in the first couple of years, and I also wasted
several years growing seeds that turned out to be self-pollinated.  The
answer to the self-pollination was to emasculate the flowers (a very tedious
task involving tweezers and a steady hand).  To counter the low rate of
success, I eventually learned to whenever possible to use pollen right after
it has been harvested.  Just pull the anthers off one flower and rub them on


Of course that doesn't work if the plants you're crossing do not bloom at
the same time, so I often have to freeze pollen for later use.  I store it
in old plastic film canisters; they work nicely.  I learned the hard way
that every trip those canisters make out of the freezer reduces their
fertility.  If you're attempting crosses over a several-month period with
one container of pollen, your later crosses are less likely to succeed
because you have thawed the pollen too many times.  To help counter that, I
put the pollen containers in a small insulated sack that keeps them cold
when they're out of the freezer.


In the last couple of years I've started to have more success.  I now have
six lines of hybrids working:


1.  Moraea neopavonia x atropunctata, which looks almost exactly like M.
neopavonia.  Surprisingly, the heavy spots of M. atropunctata are nowhere to
be seen.


2.  #1 crossed with M. villosa, which produces big pale orange flowers with
purple spots on the back (apparently from M. atropunctata) and sometimes
very large nectar guides.


3.  Moraea aristata x #1, which produces two types of flower.  One is pale
orange with very small nectar guides.  The other looks like a light yellow
version of M. aristata, very pretty but unfortunately low fertility (it's
hard to get them to set seeds, and their pollen looks like dried paint
rather than powder).


4.  Moraea aristata x M. calcicola, which produces pale blue flowers with
slight veining.  Unfortunately, these are also low fertility.


5.  Moraea atropunctata x M. calcicola, which makes pale blue flowers with
purple spots on them.  Cool!


6.  Moraea neopavonia x M. villosa, a large orange flower with big dark
nectar guides.


I've also been growing M. aristata x loubseri, courtesy of Bob Werra.
Thanks, Bob!


You can see pictures of the hybrids here:…


The nice thing about the flowers is that none of them are ugly.  I've
managed to make some very ugly Gladiolus hybrids in the last couple of years
(muddy colors and low bud counts), but that doesn't seem to happen with the
Moraeas so far.  The color combinations are very nice, and many of the
plants are extremely vigorous, with high numbers of buds and a blooming
period that can stretch for two months or longer.


I have about 15 more crosses that should reach blooming size in the next two
years.  This year, now that I've finally figured out how to improve my
success rate, I went overboard and attempted about 200 more crosses between
the hybrids above, and with various Moraea species.  Maybe a third of those
set seed, so I'm going to have a lot of planting to do this fall.

Some crosses that failed:  Unfortunately, almost all crosses between the
Peacocks and M. polystachya fail.  That's a disappointment because I would
love to get M. polystachya's vigor crossed with the colors of the Peacocks.
It's possible that I got a couple of crosses this year, but they may have
just been accidental self-pollination.  I'll know when the plants reach
blooming size, in three years.


M. macronyx and M. vegeta will not cross with any of the Peacocks.  They are
not closely related to the Peacocks, so this failure was expected.


Crosses between Dietes and Moraea also generally failed.  Not a surprise,
but it was worth a try.  ;-)



Is anyone else out there experimenting with Moraea hybrids?  If so, I'd be
glad to compare notes with you.  I'm also willing to trade seeds of my
crosses, and the few offsets that my hybrid bulbs have started to form.
Please e-mail me privately if you're interested.





San Jose, CA (min temp 20F / -7 C)

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