Monday, July 22, 2013

Lily Review: The Many Faces of 'Lankon'

Row of Lankon near packing barn.

Lankon’ was the first of its kind to be offered to the garden marketbred from the Japanese species L. longiflorum  (Easter Lily) and the Chinese species L. lankongense  found in the alpine areas of the Yunnan Province. Now after two more years of field growing, she has become rather mysterious.

Breeding Background

Shown to the public for the first time at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show in London in the spring of 2011, ‘Lankon’ scored as one of the most popular exhibits at that show. Although L. lankongense was bred successfully in the past with other Asiatic hybrids and Asiatic classification type species, this was a first with the Easter Lily (L. longiflorum) and was made possible through embryo rescue under laboratory conditions. This is a process where seed embryos are removed from the seed capsule itself, and then is grown on in a test tube agar solution, because the seed does not contain enough endosperm to nourish the emerging embryo to the cotyledon (first leaf) stage.  (Popcornit is the endosperm that expands when “popped”.)

Range of individual flower colors in Lankon.

What is this?
The big surprise this summer as 'Lankon' began to unfurl, was that something genetically had changed. 'Lankon' was sporting many new and wonderful faces in our field and we quickly suspected that she might be a "Chimera". As this should not be surprising considering this is a cross that in nature would never have happened, it not only was surprising, but also is truly wonderful. No two stems are exactly alike, in fact, flowers on some stems can differ from each another as well. 

About half in our field have green nectaries.

There are flowers that are almost a solid purple, some are heavy purple on half the flower, and with lighter spots on the other half, and even barely spotted flowers. The great thing is IT ALL WORKS! They are beautiful together and the changing scene from one day to the next is eagerly looked forward to each morning.

So, what is a Chimera?

In mythology, chimeras are commonly represented as monsters sporting a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail.  In the Plant Kingdom, actual chimeras are typically a single organism (in this case, a lily bulb), composed of two genetically different types of tissue.  As in animals, botanical chimeras usually originate from the same zygote—an extremely rare occurrence most often due to mutation during ordinary cell division;  because the specimen has more than one type of genetic material in its make up, any viable seeds the plant produces will not be ‘true to type’.  Thus, the propagation of chimerical lilies can only be achieved through vegetative methods. B&D Lilies introduced it's first Chimera 'Janus' in 2012, which was the results of breeding work done by Len Sherwin of Hyatteville, Wyoming. To have another show up the following year is truly remarkable. Len named 'Janus' for the two-faced Roman god of “beginnings and transitions”.
Another Chimera, 'Janus', with more variances.
In over 30 years of viewing literally several million seedlings of various breeders, 'Janus' was only the third chimera that we at B&D had encountered. The first two that showed up in a bed of seedlings bred by the late Don Egger, were “sickly” appearing and were quickly discarded. 'Janus' was a chance seedling  raised by Len in the course of his life-long passion of hybridizing lilies, and was a first for him as well. We debated with Len the pros and cons before introducing ‘Janus’—unsure there would be any interest at all in this oddity.  We finally decided that the opportunity to share this novelty with other lily enthusiasts shouldn’t be ignored, and now it appears we may have a spontaneous Chimera in 'Lankon'.  

What will the bloom of 2014 and 2015 bring?  

What new secrets will 'Lankon' reveal?  We plan to propagate the most diverse flower forms, from the darkest purple to the lightly spotted creamy whites. Will they continue changing appearance as they mature, or will them tend to imitate their mother bulbs from which their scales were removed? Only time will tell as this is uncharted territory. If the deepest colored forms hold true in the next generation, then a new name will be a must for those selections. If they revert back to the 'Lankon' of yesteryear in the next few generations, then they will continue to carry the 'Lankon' name. We love what we do, now completing our 35th year with Lilies, and it is the little surprises like this that add to our wonder and love of the genus Lilium.

1 comment:

  1. My Lilium Lankon is very pale, though still faintly spotted within. Just to let you know......