Spud-seed secrets

NATURAL WORLD

PAUL GAY
Last updated 08:44 16/01/2014
Potato flowers
 

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We often fail to appreciate some of the most colourful and interesting flowers in our gardens.

One of the reasons is that they are found in our vegetable garden and another is that they are on our potato crops. They may be white, or different shades of pink deepening to a dark purple. Most have bright yellow stamen and a green central stigma. They are cross-pollinated by insects such as flies and bumble bees with self- fertilisation occurring quite often.

It's the cross-pollination in potato flowers that results in an increasing number of potato varieties. Following the flowering, small green fruits develop. These are about the size of a cherry tomato and each one can contain up to 300 seeds. They are described as "true seeds" as distinguished from the "seed potatoes" that we buy each year to grow our crops.

Seed potatoes are not seeds, but tubers and a means of vegetative reproduction.

There are now more than 5000 recognised cultivated potato varieties. These have been developed from an estimated 200 wild species found mainly in the Andes.

When potato flowers bloom, the underground tubers are forming. In general the plants that have flowers with white petals will produce white tubers and those with pink petals will grow potatoes with reddish skins.

The tubers growing under these purplish flowers were of a variety known as purple passion and were purple all the way through the tubers.

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- The Southland Times

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