Wednesday, 28 August 2013

One very valuable source of plants is in private seed lists. Both the Alpine Garden Society and the Scottish Rock Garden club produce seed lists every year. They are only available to members but there is a generous allocation of seeds for everybody. At this time of year people from many parts of the world will be collecting seeds to send to the various seed exchanges. Much of this will be garden seeds but also many people collect seed both from their own countries and places they travel to in the wild to add to the lists. Members who send seeds in do have an advantage but all members are entitled to a share. The Meconopsis Group based at the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens produce a seed list which of course contains a great range of Meconopsis seeds and these days other genera too. As you might imagine there is a huge amount of work involved in first rapidly producing a seed list to send out, then to collect in all the donations and sort them and then to packet up hundreds of seed numbers in thousands of packets and finally to send the seed out usually before Christmas while the seed
is still really fresh. All this is done by volunteers. Most Botanic Gardens also produce a seed list but usually this is only exchanged with other Botanic Gardens but they will sometimes provide seeds for very serious amateurs. There are also intrepid travelers who go out into the wild and collect seeds, I show the catalogue of  Holubec from Czechoslovakia from whom I have had some wonderful seeds. There are a number of collectors of native American seeds who issue annual catalogues. Commercial from proprietory seed companies will almost certainly be a year older by the time you buy it. 

Image - various stages of collecting and drying. Clay saucers dry seed well. Fleshy seeds like the Podophyllum shown need scooping out, perhaps washing to remove slime etc. and then drying (dried seed in petri dish). Top Right are this years cleaned and packaged seed ready to send off. Top Left - seed heads of an American species of delphinium drying. UNLESS you are disabled the seed exchange managers do expect seed to be clean and correctly labelled. YOU will find however that not everyone identifies what they send in correctly!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

This is the time of year when most Meconopsis seed needs harvesting. Here in Scotland it is a late season and the weather is cool and wet. The stems bearing seed pods must not be picked until they have naturally opened the valves at the top of the pod. Then take these whole seed stems and place them on trays to dry. Where there are only a few individual seed pods, these  can be placed in dishes of some sort. Once they are dry (3 or 4 days usually) sieve out any coarse debris and then gently blow away finer stuff and infertile seeds. Fertile Meconopsis seed varies in size with something like Lingholm the largest but all should look round and have some weight. The top picture shows a pod of M. napaulensis hybrid with the valves open and the seed ready to spill out

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Another image from Jeanie Jones taken in N.E.India. This was sent to me as a yellow form of Meconopsis prainiana - not described before. This species was lumped by Sir George Taylor into M. horridula. My view on this plant is that it is part of a super species best called M. horridula and I really cannot see why it is that different from M . racemosa or even M. prattii. I confess the concept of a super species is my own but it helps with identifying very similar species as a group. WHAT FOLLOWS IS COMPLICATED SO ONLY READ ON IF REALLY ADDICTED TO MECONOPSIS!

There are at least 9 named variations on the 'horrid' poppy separated off into new species, but I think many of them merge into each other and I strongly suspect there are more variations yet to be described from remoter areas in China. 

What does intrigue me about this plant is the yellow colour. Taylor described a yellow Meconopsis horridula from the Himalayas. There are a number of artficially created Meconopsis with this pale yellow when the lemon yellow species M. integrifolia was crossed with blue species M. betonicifolia to give M. x sarsonsii, M. x beamishii when crossed with M. grandis (there is a suggestion that this has been found in the wild), M. x finlayorum with M. quintuplinervia. Kingdom Ward's Ivory poppy was also found in the wild and has been described as a cross between M. simplicifolia and M. integrifolia. This was raised in the garden first as M. x harleyana  by Andrew Harley at Devonhall  and was called the Ivory Poppy. It was also described as M. simplicifolia eburnea. It was later found in the wild by Kingdom Ward and since (see M. x harleyana on the main website. Many of the forms of M. integrifolia south of where this deep yellow upright species is found are  now split into a very variable species called M. pseudointegrifolia which also tend to be cream coloured rather than a clear yellow. Both these species now have sub-species described. 

I should love to see a genetic study on these normally blue species that have yellow forms  to see if in the distant past they naturally hybridized with an M. integrifolia like ancestor to produce these cream yellow plants.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

David and Margaret Thorne from the Borders and Jeanie Jones from Dumfries have recently returned from Arunachal Pradesh and Jeanie has sent me some wonderful Meconopsis images that I hope to use over the next weeks. This is the exquisite Meconopsis bella - extremely difficult to grow. It is a dwarf plant often found, like this one, on ledges. It can be blue or pink.