DuPont, Supremes, & Amazons Question

quimoiMarch 15, 2014

As I understand it, these varieties were produced by chemically treating the plants (?) with colchicine. Or at least doing something to them.

However, I've been reading some older books and it seems that the authors were unaware of this "tinkering" and seem to think it was just a normal mutation. Did the originators keep this a secret? When was it discovered that they had been created artificially, so to speak?

(I've been having fun reading old violet books for free online.) These are the late 40's, early 50's writers and were well-known then so I'm guessing the mystery of these plants was unraveled much later. I believe they are tetraploids, correct?

And, yes, Mrs. DuPont was from Wilmington, Delaware, in case anyone else was wondering if there was a chemical company connection there.


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The early hybridizers were very secretive about how they obtained their cultivars. Some kept no records and those who did refused to share them. I'm not sure why; fear of competition, maybe. Record-keeping in hybridizing is considered very important for tracking success and failures among other things. Maybe this is why the authors were not aware of any manipulating in the hybridization process.

I have read about colchicine being used on violets and it would make sense that this is where the huge cultivars came from. (I have read that the "Space" series was treated with colchicine but never from a reliable source).

For those who don't know:

Colchicine is a drug that is used to treat gout and is obtained from Lycoris squamigera. It is used on plants to manipulate their chromosomes and produce bigger plants. The treated plants are usually larger with thicker leaves and bigger, heavier flowers.It is routinely used in orchid propagation.The process used to treat plants is involved and time-consuming which is probably why it didn't catch on given the ease of hybridizing the natural way.

Diploid-(2n) two copies of each chromosome.
Triploid-(3n) three sets
Tetraploid-(4n) four sets

Most colchicine treated plants are tetraploid but some are triploid. From what I understand it is easier to obtain a tetraploid which is in essence a doubling of the original chromosomes, than it is to get a triploid.

I would be interested in reading the older violet books if you have a web address.


This post was edited by whitelacey on Mon, Mar 17, 14 at 2:50

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 2:49AM
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Sounds very interesting. Am enjoying reading both of your comments. I had some older books, probably still do, around somewhere.
Wilson and a couple of others. But written more for the consumer rather than the scientist.
However, the scientific research is probably much harder to find. Probably someone like Jeff Smith and his colleagues or the Storks might have access to information. These days of the internet, a lot of arcane information can be found. I came across some old patent application information from R. Holtkamp that I found fascinating. It would be even more interesting to find some records for our personal favorite plants types. Joanne

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 4:18AM
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There must be something in the records because now "everyone" seems to know about the colchicine but in the early days, the prominent people seemed unaware of the manipulation. I was just curious if anyone knew how it came out.

It seems like it might be an interesting story.

By 1963, for instance, Helen Van Pelt Wilson knew that the Supremes/Duponts were treated.

I seem to have gotten rid of my older books. One of the more interesting things in some of them (to me) is if there are photos and lists of plants. How few of them remain from a 1971 book! That one did list two old Rhapsodies that I'd had - R. Gigi and R. Violetta, but no photos.


There may be other sites, but I found the books I read on Open Library.

I was looking for some info around the early 50's and found copies of both Wilson's and Montague Free's books from the late 40's/early 50's. I didn't check to see if Project Gutenberg had anything. I found some classic mysteries to "borrow" too so I'm like a kid in a candy store. I have to say I found the earlier Wilson book more fascinating than the '63 edition.


    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 9:10AM
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Montague Free, that is another name I recall whose book I read. At the time, in the early 70's, I was not into violets but made a mental note for later in life when I would have more time to fuss with indoor plants. Interesting how much information is now available, thanks to the internet and Amazon. An older friend of mine from NJ whose wife was a collector of books and violets passed along some of the older books to me including Helen Wilson's books. He is widowed, so now and then to cheer him up, I bring him a new O in full bloom from the florist. He was trying to nurse a few dying plants but did not know how to care for them.

This post was edited by fortyseven on Mon, Mar 17, 14 at 15:41

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 12:48PM
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