Thursday, November 12, 2015

Celebrating Autumn: Dark Red PCI Flowers

Kathleen Sayce
Red is not a natural color for iris flowers, and so it is of course one of the most sought after goals among Iris breeders. 

PCI 'Wine and Cheese' by Vernon Wood,
PCI 'Gold Streaker' by Vernon Wood, 2003

Flower color in the genus Iris comes from two different parts of cells in flower petals, cell sap and plastids. The pH in the cell affects the sap colors. Growing temperatures, soil pH, and soil nutrition may also affect colors in both areas of the cell.  

PCI 'New Blood', by Joe Ghio,
One color portion comes from the cellular sap, the fluid inside each cell in the flower. This sap is the source of cool colors––blues, lavenders, purples. Cell sap colors are very sensitive to pH. 

The other color portion is in cell organelles, plastids, which are the source for warm colors, primarily yellows and oranges. 

PCI 'Pop Idol'
For flower colors that nature did not design, breeders tweak the balance between colors in the cell sap and colors in the plastids. 

Well, that is the outcome of what they do. 

In the garden, breeders select, year after year, for the plants that come closest to the colors they are looking for. There is also some serendipity––the breeder might not have been looking for brilliantly dark red falls with golden streaks, but when these appear, wow!

PCI 'War Zone' by Joe Ghio, 2008
While looking for Pacifica Iris to feature in this article, I requested red photos from SPCNI members and the photo collection.

Ninety plus images later, my head reeling from an abundance of choices, I decided to post them in several sets, sorted by hue and intensity. 

As we've just passed the Autumn celebrations of Halloween, Day of the Dead, and Samhain, this article features dark, intensely red to near black PCI flowers. 

PCI 'Red Flag Warning' by Joe Ghio, 2010
Joseph Ghio has been breeding more intensely colored PCI for years, see the hue intensity ramp up from 'New Blood' and 'Pop Idol' to 'War Zone' and 'Red Flag Warning'. I live on the Pacific Northwest Coast, and we've already had a few red flag storms blast through this fall, so I appreciate this name! 

Intense reds don't stop here. They keep going to near-blacks and dark red purples.  

PCI 'Brand Name' by Joe Ghio, 2009

PCI 'Brand Name' has intense coloration in all flower parts, the signal is small, even the style arms are darkening up. 

It is clear that near black flowers aren't too far away. Pigment levels are getting very intense. Not surprisingly, the names are getting intense too!

PCI 'Battle Line' by Joe Ghio, 2004

My former plant physiology instructors would roll over in their graves if I failed to mention green plastids.  Green plastids are in all plant cells, and are called chloroplasts. They contain chlorophyll and accessory pigments, and capture light to make chemical energy to fuel plants. These green plastids largely disappear in mature flowers, as the flowers take on other pigments, stop growing, and expand into open flowers ready for pollination. 

OK, duty done, next, on to more reds, pinks, and red-orange-yellow PCI flowers. 

All of the photos in this article are from the SPCNI Photo Collection, shared by Ken Walker, SPCNI Recorder to this blog. 

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