Old Wives Tales

Den Wilson valden@vectis52.freeserve.co.uk
Wed, 05 May 2004 12:12:23 PDT
Kelly wrote:
<< Some plants even die if you let them go to seed. Such plants are not
evolved for long life of individuals. Bulbs do seem less likely to fall into
that category.>>

I agree. Perhaps we are not giving sufficient consideration to the diversity
of bulbous pants. Some bulbs, Rhodophiala is a good example, rarely or never
make offsets and rely almost entirely on reproducing from seed. It is
noticeable that these bulbs are usually short-lived if seed production is
permitted to continue unchecked, whereas dead-heading appears to prolong
bulb-life considerably. In the case of some Rhodophiala I have noticed that
they appear to decline after only 3-4 years of continuous seed production.
The bulbs flower repeatedly during summer and are capable of producing large
quantities of seed but only at enormous expense to the bulb. In this case
dead-heading appears to preserve both vigour and bulb-life, perhaps because
the plant
still needs to fulfil its main task of reproduction.

On the other hand I have noticed no such effect in Nerine or Hippeastrum
which usually produce offsets quite freely. However, I have a bulb of
Hippeastrum brasilianum which has not produced a single offset in 7 years.
It is, however, self-fertile as are many Rhodophiala. Conversely, H.
petiolatum is self-sterile and produces offsets by the dozen so dead-heading
would make no difference.

Some old-wives may have got it right - it depends on what they were growing.

Den Wilson
Isle of Wight
Zone 8 (maritime) almost frost-free.

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