Daffodils result of successful breeding

NATURAL WORLD

PAUL GAY
Last updated 13:43 30/10/2013
Daffodils
Daffodils.

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Although the species of trumpet daffodil on the right is often called "King Alfred", it's most likely just a King Alfred-"type" of daffodil.

 

Well over 100 years ago John Kendal, an English plant breeder, developed a large golden-yellow daffodil that was named King Alfred. It was a sensation in the horticultural world.

These days it's thought that just a few breeders in Holland grow the true King Alfred but we still benefit from Kendal's work as there are excellent King Alfred-"type" daffodils available.

Most of the daffodils we have today have been bred from the original "paper white" or jonquil type of narcissi. This breeding is a long process and can take as long as five years before there are flowers to show if the breeding was successful.

The process is simple enough. In most daffodil flowers there are six stamens that produce pollen and one pistil that receives the pollen when insects move from flower to flower. The idea is to choose special flowers and remove the stamen from the flowers that are chosen to produce the seed and pollinate the pistils with pollen from another selected plant. The chosen "seed" plant flower is then covered with a plastic bag to prevent pollen contamination from other nearby flowers.

When the seeds mature, they are harvested and stored ready for planting.

The smaller trumpet daffodil at the left and the spectacular multi- petaled bloom in the centre are examples of successful breeding - results not evident until three to five years after the seed is planted. There are now about 50 recognised species of daffodils and many hybrids.

A word of warning: All narcissus species contain an alkaloid poison and the handling of the flowers and bulbs can cause what's known as "daffodil itch" on sensitive skins.

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- The Southland Times

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