Allium TOW - Hybrids
Sun, 09 Mar 2003 18:28:02 PST
On the PBS wiki Allium page, I invite you to take a look at the "Allium 
Hybrids" subpage at:…

Of particular note, I placed an image of an Allium cernuum x unknown parent 
that is very unique and lovely.  A discussion of Allium hybrids could get 
very long, but I'd like to make a few comments.

1.  It seems extraordinary to me that so few cases of natural hybridization 
are recorded to occur in the wild, given that Allium is such a huge genus.  
About the best known case in literature is the Flora of the USSR which 
reports on intergradation between the two blue species A. coeruleum and A. 
caesium.  Thad Howard spoke, in personal correspondance, of finding 
intermediates between the Texas endemic Allium coryi (yellow) and Allium 
drummondii (pink, red, to rarely white) where their range overlapped.

2.  A tremendous amount of work has been done studying the genus Allium, not 
because of ornamental onions, but because of their importance as a world 
vegetable crop.  It's been shown that species that are very different 
taxonomically (species in different sections of the genus) are more likely to 
hybridize than those that are closely related.  I'm not sure how much of this 
I believe as certainly closed related species like nutans, senescens, 
albidum, angulosum, etc., all hybridize with reckless abandon.  But then 
again, there are documented successful crosses between such unlikely things 
as A. cepa (onion) x A. senescens.

3.  In the garden, once one grows enough species,  once critical mass of 
genetic diversity has been reached, it seems that the self-sown hybrids 
appear with such frequency that I'm loathe to throw away all of the thousands 
of seedlings that appear in the paths between my allium beds, for fear of 
throwing away something different.  I missed taking a picture this summer of 
one such "franken-onion", a bizzare Allium cernuum hybrid... it had a stocky 
inflorescence of deep pink flowers but in addition to the florets held aloft 
on long dropping pedicels, it had lots of flowers custered tight in the 
center as well.  I showed it to a friend and fellow allium fancier, and she 
laughed out loud seeing this weird plant... weird but fun.

4.  The potential for developing new, interesting, and beautiful allium 
hybrids has been largely ignored.  There has been a focus on the developing 
section Melanocrommyum hybrids (the giant "ball onions"), which includes such 
things as 'Globus', 'Globemaster', 'Gladiator', etc.  However, no one has 
bothered much with the rest of the genus, particularly with the summer 
growing rhizomatous onions.  The potential is tremendous.

Mark McDonough        Pepperell, Massachusetts, United States    "New England"               USDA Zone 5
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