Monday, May 31, 2021

Arilpums Are Here!

by Tom Waters

When I last wrote about my progress with hybridizing arilpums in September, I was eagerly anticipating this spring's bloom, with many new seedlings expected to bloom on established plants. I was not disappointed!

Aladdin's Gem

First, a little recap. Arilpums are hybrids between pure arils and the dwarf bearded species Iris pumila. When a tetraploid aril is used as the aril parent, theory predicts that the arilpum seedlings will be fully fertile amphidiploids. Historically, most arilbred dwarfs and medians have been produced by using arilbreds, diploid arils, and SDBs in various combinations, and the result has been infertile offspring, making it impossible to linebreed the smaller arilbreds to refine them and extend their potential. Arilpums are the way out of that difficulty. However, only a few have been registered and introduced: 'Barbarella' (Mathes, 1991), 'Aladdin's Gem' (Thoolen, 2002), and 'Topaz Talisman' (Jensen, 2015). Although producing fertile pollen, arilpums so far have shown little or no pod fertility, a disappointing setback.

Last spring, I had some luck with the two arilpum seedlings I bloomed, Q025-01, 'Merlin's Magic' X Armenian pumila seedling, and Q053-01, 'Tadzhiki Bandit' X 'Sudden Butterflies'. Both produced seeds for me, as did a seedling of George Hildenbrandt's, GH-11-4-2, 'Dunshanbe' X 'Hidden Dragon'. So it seemed there was hope after all for creating a line of fertile arilpums!

This spring reinforced my optimisim, and also gave a preview of the great variety of color, pattern, and form that is possible with arilpums.


Q068-04, with "monster beards"

Earliest to bloom were seedlings from cross Q068, 'Dunshanbe' X 'Wild Whispers'. I had over a dozen of these, most dark violet selfs with some aril look but without much distinctiveness. Two stood out, however. Q068-04 has massive caterpillar beards. Not exactly beautiful, but certainly memorable. Q068-09 is the best of the lot, with a clean oncocyclus shape and elegant look. 

Q068-09, the standout

The second cross to bloom was really exciting: Q066, 'Tadzhiki Bandit' X Caucasus pumila seedling. These were much smaller and more varied than the 'Dunshanbe' seedlings, showing many exciting colors and patterns. I've kept almost everything from this cross for further evaluation.



There was another from cross Q053, looking almost the same as its sibling that bloomed last year. I also had a few seedlings from cross Q070, 'Vera' X 'Royal Wonder', one of which was deemed worthy of a closer look.


I made a number of crosses with this year's arilpums, but was not very systematic or thorough about it. Seeds have not been harvested yet, so it is premature to say much about their pod fertility. But there are pods, even some bee pods, so I am optimistic. 

It's been about ten years work to get to this point, but at last I have a small cadre of arilpum seedlings to work with, and the future looks very promising.

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