triploid pollen: good for spring chickens

Jim McKenney
Wed, 17 Mar 2004 00:40:52 PST
Our local chapter of the North American Lily Society, the Potomac Lily
Society, had a special guest speaker last weekend: Dr. Robert Griesbach
senior (as a matter of fact, Dr. Robert Griesbach junior was there with his
son Robert Griesbach. As someone in the group jokingly asked, would the
real Robert Griesbach please stand up!). 

This was a wonderful event, not long enough by far. Dr. Griesbach spoke
about his hybridizing efforts over the years with several genera:
Gladiolus, Hemerocallis and Lilium. For those of us with an interest in
plant breeding, it was a rare chance to hear and question someone with more
practical experience than most of us back-yard hybridizers could ever hope
to acquire. 

Here's the relevance to this list: awhile back I repeated the belief handed
on to me that triploid pollen was useless. At this point, Jim Shields
kindly intervened and in several private posts straightened me out on
several points. Thanks, Jim! Among the points that Jim made in those
private posts was that he was sure pollen of the triploid Hemerocallis
clone Europa had successfully been used to get viable seed. I still had my
doubts (we lily people almost always have our doubts when daylilies are

Because of Dr. Griesbach's experience with both lilies and daylilies, I was
keen to hear his opinion of triploid pollen. His verdict: it has been known
to work, although rarely, with lilies, too. Apparently it's "simply" a
matter of probability: there are so many potential combinations which can
occur during meiosis in triploids that the chances of getting gametes which
will work with the gametes derived from diploids are very small. 

You know the expression "money is the root of all evil"? If, as I did, you
used this expression as a child and were told that the correct form is
"love of money is the root of all evil" then maybe you'll appreciate what
follows. I was about to say that "knowledge is the fountain of youth". But
it's really "a love of knowledge is the fountain of youth." Today I feel
like a spring chicken!

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, zone 7, where it's time for this spring
chicken to get out and scratch around in the garden. 

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