Friday, June 13, 2014

Kissing Krigias

I’ve been paying special attention to a small pot of Potato Dandelion, Krigia dandelion.  This pot contains the plants that escaped, with the help of a Chipmunk, from a much larger container of Potato Dandelions that had been established for many years.

This is what the plants looked like back in early April when I moved them from the middle of a junk pile into a pot of rich soil.  In just about every account I read of Krigia Dandelion it states that this plant is hard to transplant and grow.  That information comes from a 1963 publication by Julian Steyermark entitled Flora of Missouri in which Steyermark states “it does not transplant well and is difficult to grow.  It has been tried several times with failure in the author’s northern Illinois wildflower preserve“.  In my experience, Potato Dandelion is quite easy to transplant, especially if you are working with the dormant tubers.  It also grows with great vigor.  I think people have misinterpreted what Steyermark actually meant.  The quote seems to be saying that the plant is difficult to establish into a new, natural site.  With this I have to agree.

This is what those scrawny transplants look like now.  Potato Dandelion grows like a weed when protected from predators and relieved of competition from other plants.  If a natural site could be found that offers those advantages, there would be no stopping this plant. 

The pot was left sitting on a picnic table in a location that received nearly full sunlight.  Over 40 flower stalks emerged from the original 10 plants.  It will be interesting to see how many new tubers have been created in this small pot.

Potato Dandelion is a member of the Aster family and each bloom is a collection of individual flowers all arising from a common base.  Each flower has a single attending petal, so a count of the petals identifies the number of flowers present at the top of the stalk.  Each of these petals should be able to produce a seed.  Unfortunately, most of the flowers fail in their reproductive duties.

Pollinating insects regularly visit the flowers.  Most common are small bees and beetles.

This species of Jewel Beetle has been very common this year.  I believe this to be Acmaeodera ornata, but my references only cover about 20% of the species that could be encountered in this area, so I’m never completely sure I’ve arrived at the proper identification.  Whatever the species, the beetles were usually carrying a dusting of pollen on their bodies as they moved around the flowers.  You would think that type of activity would certainly result in some pollination.

In an attempt to increase the chances of pollination, I went out each day and forced all of the open blooms to kiss each other.  This process has got to be moving some pollen around.

So far, there have been no seeds produced, just empty husks.  Sometimes, plant species that reproduce themselves vegetatively can form large colonies of individual plants that are essentially clones of each other.  If that species needs to receive pollen from another plant in order to produce seed, that pollen would have to come from a plant that is not its clone.  It’s possible that Potato Dandelion fits that description and I’m dealing with a clone population that is basically all the same plant.  If that’s true, I may never get any seed.

No comments:

Post a Comment