Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hybridizing Louisiana (LA) Irises

Hybridizing Louisiana (LA) irises, or any iris, is great fun and can produce an iris that you can name and introduce.  Hybridizing is simply taking the pollen from one iris (the pollen parent) and applying the pollen to another iris (the pod parent).  There is really nothing very technical about it and anyone can "hybridize" with just a little instruction.

Seedling by Ron Betzer of Lafayette, LA

When you cross one iris with another the "pod parent" will set the seeds.  In LA irises this can produce from 20 to 80 seeds.  The seed pod is harvested after it has ripened and the seeds are carefully removed from the pod.  I usually soak the seeds in water a few days and then plant them immediately.  The "seedlings" (plants obtained from planting seeds) will usually germinate starting in about November.  The seedlings will grow through the fall, the next year, and bloom the third year.

Seedling by Ron Killingsworth
This is one of my seedlings from a cross I made between 'Jeri' by N. Bertinot (1984) and 'Night Thunder' by R. Morgan (2000). The seedling I will discuss is the one in the center.  The seedling to the right is a different seedling from the same "cross".  'Jeri' is a very dark iris and 'Night Thunder' is also very dark, almost black.  'Night Thunder' has a beautiful gold steeple signal (the color markings on LA iris where the beard is located on Tall Bearded irises) and I wanted to try to produce a 'Jeri' with the signal from 'Night Thunder'.  Most of the seedlings were very similar to 'Jeri' or to 'Night Thunder' but this cross of two dark irises produced the above reddish iris.  It does have the 'Night Thunder' signal.  But from this cross I also had some blue seedlings. 'Night Thunder' won the Mary Swords DeBallion Medal, present by the Society for LA Irises but selected by the American Iris Society judges.  This medal is the highest award within the LA iris species (i.hexagonae).

Seedling by Ron Killingsworth

This blueish seedling came from the same cross.  It is not an outstanding seedling but look at the bud count!  You can enlarge the picture by clicking on it.  Count the number of current and spent buds.

Seedling by Ron Killingsworth
This seedling came from a cross between 'Night Thunder' and 'C'est Si Bon' by J. C. Taylor (1983).  'C'est Si Bon' has a white spray pattern around the signal and I wanted to produce more irises with the pattern.  This seedling is actually darker than the picture.  I have a hard time getting nice pictures with a digital camera when the iris is really dark or dark purple.

If you are interested in trying your hand at "hybridizing" there are many books available that discuss the subject and you can also obtain information from the Society for Louisiana Iris.  Just click on the button for "hybridizing".

Read up, become an "expert" and then get out there and dob some pollen! If you are interested in crossing irises of different species, take a look at the web site for The Species Iris Group of North America.  The folks in that organization will cross anything!

The irises beckon so off I go to take more pictures.

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