Virus in bulbs

Jane McGary
Mon, 03 Mar 2003 14:14:14 PST
This discussion reminds me that I would like to ask the experts some
questions that have occurred to me over the past few years.

1. Is Colchicum 'Waterlily' (the widely sold double form) afflicted with
some virus or other disease? I have not been able to keep it here, and have
given up on it.

2. Are commercial stocks of Fritillaria imperialis virused? Again, I cannot
establish them here and note that emerging foliage is distorted, but this
can be caused by frost as well as disease, so I have not been sure. I no
longer order bulbs of this species in any form and am trying to grow some
stock from seed, but it is very slow and shows poor germination.

3. It has not been mentioned much, but some viruses affecting bulbous
plants (and other plants) commonly can be transmitted between genera. The
best-known example in bulbs is tulip viruses affecting lilies, so one is
often advised not to grow tulips anywhere near valuable lilies. I've also
noticed that two nurseries in this region that specialize in variegated
plants (Collectors and Terra Nova) frequently find variegated forms of
other plants arising in their collections; can these be the result of
viruses jumping from the variegated plants to other species and genera?
What does this mean, for example, for those who grow hosta cultivars --
should they worry about infection reaching their other liliaceous plants?

4. The discussion of the decision whether to preserve an infected hybrid or
other clone points up the importance of maintaining a wide gene pool both
in nature and in cultivation. By such means, populations can be constantly
renewed, the unhealthy stock discarded and replaced by new, possibly
resistant clones in great variety. This is the principle underlying the
Lily Species Preservation Society, for which disease-free stocks are now
being grown from seed in large numbers. It is more important to preserve a
wild plant community with its inherent variation than to cosset a single
hybrid clone, however pretty it may be. 

Therefore, we should all (a) support habitat preservation efforts like
those of the Nature Conservancy, and (b) GROW MANY PLANTS FROM SEED, and
participate in seed exchanges.

Jane McGary
Northwest Oregon

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