orange insanity

Sat, 24 Jan 2004 03:19:40 PST
Ken, et al,

not to jump down your throat, but "melon" is a very specific colour trait
found in the genus Hemerocallis and the pigment responsible is lycopene.  I
mention this, as, although we all have our perceptions of orange, the melon
factor is a unique mutation not found in wild populations of Hemerocallis!
In the scheme of things, lycopene is a red coloured precursor for the
manufacture of carotenoid pigments, such as zeaxanthin and violaxanthin,
which are the primary yellow-orange pigments of Hemerocallis.  The
spontaneous mutation allowed the developement of melons.  (a precursor is a
base product from which various end products are synthesised.  Lycopene is
the precursor for all carotene pigments and is one of the few precursors
that is also a pigment.  Most are colourless.)

Orange tones, on the other hand, are produced by carotenes mixed with
anthocyanins to create the various shades.  A pure chromatic orange is
possible with just the two cartotenoids, but is rather rare, due to
interbreeding of the various species.  H. fulva EUROPA  is a classic example
of multi-pigment colouring containing at least zeaxanthin, violaxanthin,
cyanidin, delphinidin and pelargonidin.  No lycopene, therefore not a melon!

I realise this may sound like splitting hairs, but one shouldn't give a
cloudy representation of an already difficult area of understanding.  When
you mentioned that modern cvs are melons, you are probably largely correct,
as, genetically seen, the trait is almost always present at this point in
their evolution.  Lycopene is a very pale pigment and even when available in
a 100% concentration, it appears as a pale, warm pink (not orange!), so is
therefore easily covered by other pigments.  (literally in the case of
water-soluble anthocyanins, which actually lie on the surface of the floral
parts)  This means that orange tones are not dependant upon melon for their
colour.  Coral tones are typically lycopene augmented oranges (carotenes +

If you wish to see what kinds of pigments are creating a colour, simply wash
the floral part in very warm water.  The water soluble anthocyanins will
wash-out, leaving the fat soluble carotenes.  A fun experiment with the
local garden club!

I've noted that many sellers will avoid calling a flower orange, prefering
to choose fanciful and oft more accurate names, such as papaya, tangerine,
cinnabar, copper, quince, etc.  Of course, the ripeness of the fruit is
rarely mentioned! LOL

Jamie V.

> To my knowledge, I've never seen H. fulva, so that isn't the
> reason.  Anyway, modern hemerocallis are never orange, they are "melon",
> though whether Honeydew or Watermelon, or Yellow Baby Watermelon, is
> never mentioned.
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