Calochortus albus var. rubellus

Jane McGary
Mon, 26 May 2003 09:59:06 PDT
Mary Sue Ittner wrote,> A number of years ago in the Calochortus Society 
newsletter the question was asked whether the red ones continued to be this 
color when grown in cultivation away from where they were found. Some 
people had reported they had reverted to white.  Has anyone on this list 
managed to keep this color form going?

I have C. albus var. rubellus from wild-collected seed and also from Dutch 
commercial stock, and the color seems the same every year. They are just 
starting to flower now. I grow them in the bulb frame on the south, or 
slightly shaded, side, since in the wild they often prefer shaded sites 
where moisture must linger later into the season.

People often claim that their flowers have changed color or "reverted," but 
I think this is usually a mistaken belief. Variegated foliage plants do 
revert. Soil chemistry can affect flower color, most famously hydrangeas; 
for instance, roses that I plant here usually have darker flowers than they 
do in many other gardens, and this may be due to a soil high in potassium. 
However, when friends tell me their flowers have changed color, the reasons 
are likely to turn out to be (a) they got confused about what they planted 
where; (b) seedlings of another color (usually the typical color) grew and 
proved to be better adapted than the form originally planted; or (c) mixed 
colors were originally supplied instead of the advertised selection, and 
one color form among these is better adapted and eventually dominates the 
colony. For example, I have planted florist anemones (Anemone de Caen) here 
at the limit of their winter hardiness, and the red forms survive longer 
than the other colors--red being the typical color of at least one parent 
of this strain. If I weren't a skeptic with a little knowledge of natural 
selection, I might think that all the anemones turned red!

I believe the Dutch commercial calochortus stocks are mostly seed-grown, so 
it would be understandable to find some variation in them.

I noticed, by the way, that Calochortus uniflorus is now available 
commercially. I didn't keep the mass-market bulb catalog where I saw it, 
but it was listed under a cultivar name and the species not identified. 
This is an upfacing, cup-shaped flower, lavender in color and with minimal 
markings in the throat. It should be well adapted to gardens (I have it 
outdoors but a deer ate it this year), coming from low elevations in the 
central and southern parts of western Oregon, where it rains a lot in 
winter and gets fairly cold too. It is one of the less striking Calochortus 
species, but quite floriferous and increases well. It blooms over a long 
period, starting here in early April and continuing to June. It is a small 
plant, which is an advantage because it isn't as gawky and floppy as some 
of the larger Calochortus.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon

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