Monday, 14 June 2010

Early Sprouter, Early Flowerer.

Yesterday, amongst the Oca / Sweetcorn bed, I was surprised to see one of the Oca was flowering already. In my experience this is a couple of months earlier than usual.  Consulting my notebook, I see that the plant is one of a selection that I have tentatively labeled 'Real Seeds Red (Early Sprouting)', as it is the second generation of tubers to be earlier to spring in to life than standard Real Seeds Red.

Perhaps there is a connection - the plant is vigorous, and generally keen to get on with life, and will go on to produce early tubers. But I am realistic enough to look for other explanations. The plants suffered some frost damage after they were planted out, and it may have acted as a stimulus to flowering.  This would certainly be a beneficial trait at the end of the growing season - a 'set seed before it is too late' gene.
Alternatively, watering with dilute urine stimulates flowering, or then again it's just a freak occurrence.

It gives me a chance to practice identifying Oca stylar morphs. This seems to be mid styled.

Anyway, the act of flowering is forlorn in this case, as there are no suitable pollination partners available yet (EDIT ...or so I thought - see first comment to this post, from Rhizowen). I looked around with frustration and notice Creeping Woodsorrel (Oxalis corniculata), a cousin of Oca, growing as a weed in the next bed. It's flowering. The flower structure looks very similar to Oca's.  Hmmm...

... I'm knowledgeable enough to know that it shouldn't work, but ignorant enough not to be sure it's impossible. There's nothing to loose by trying it.

EDIT During the following two weeks, three more of the same variety flowered, but none of the other varieties. Curious.
I was joking previously when I mentioned Watering with dilute urine but these plants are benefiting from this feed intended for the interplanted sweet corn, and it's the only difference in cultural treatment which I can think of that could be a factor. Anyway, all attempts at pollination whether by other mid-styled oca, or by unlikely motley related species have been unsuccessful so far. I'm now watching out for any official legitimate pollinators coming in to flower.  Work commitments are making it impossible for me to regularly patrol the plot during the crucial period around midday when flowers open, so there's a fair chance I'm going to miss the vital moments.

On an unrelated topic, since I read up a bit on vegetable breeding, I seem to be noticing mutations all around me now. Anyone for a bearded strawberry?


  1. You could have a go pollinating it - mid stylar morphs are, so I've been led to believe, sometimes capable of self pollination.

  2. I have tried a few, but so far no success. At least it is good practice for the 'real thing'.