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Hybrids

At this time of the year, as we peruse our spring catalogs, we will run across plants described as new hybrids.

cross-pollination

Photo: International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (flickr)

Researcher cross-pollinating cowpea emasculated buds through artificial cross-pollination method using brush to spread the pollen grains on flower buds.

At this time of the year, as we peruse our spring catalogs, we will run across plants described as new hybrids.

These hybrids are always the result of human intervention. They are registered by plant breeders who generally have spent a great deal of time and energy creating a sexual cross between botanically distinct species.

A species refers to a group of plants that naturally breeds offspring with similar characteristics.

Interspecific hybrids result from crossing members of species that belong to the same genus. For example, hybrid roses that all belong to the genus Rosa.

Sexual hybrids occur because of cross-pollination. However, it is also possible to produce new hybrids by grafting one plant onto another, and then the new plant will contain the actual tissue of both parents.

Plant breeders keep trying to improve the characteristics of plants by improving the vigor, persistence, disease-resistance, color, size, and beauty of blooms in the new cultivars that they develop.

The word cultivar is a contraction of cultivated varieties. When we see these new cultivated hybrid varieties in the catalogs, we are frequently seduced by the beauty of their photographs, however, many may not stand the test of time in our gardens. Try, if you can, to wait a year or two after they are first introduced before investing in them to see if they stand the test of time and are really as good and reliable as their breeders claim.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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