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Fascinating Florets


The delphiniums seen so far all fall within the normal range of variation but gardeners and delphinium breeders sometimes find flowers that stretch credulity and raise many questions.


The first example is the brown or black flower. In this case the flower is of quite normal form with distinct sepals and petals and occurred along with several others of similar colour among the seedlings from a hand-pollinated cross that was expected to produce white flowers with brown eyes.

Further crossing showed that the black flower is associated with a recessive gene. It presumably arises because the switch that turns on the development of brown pigmentation for the petals is also turned on for the sepals.

The second case was a flower exhibited by delphiniuim breeder, Duncan McGlashan. This particularly weird example of what he terms an 'Oddball' is characterised by quite amazing extension of unfertilised carpels (seed pods) in a flower that has little colour in the sepals or petals.

The third case is a fairly normal-looking flower, except for a green cluster in the centre of the eye. These green clusters extended on a stalk and developed as well-formed normal flowers with the same colouring as the first set.

Occasional development of such secondary buds is fairly common but the unusual feature here was that every floret on the plant flowered a second time.

Such repeat flowering would seem to be very advantageous for the perennial border. The problem with this plant was that the sepals from the first flowering remained firmly attached as a rotting reminder of the former glory.


This survey of a variety of different delphinium flowers illustrates the enormous range of characters that an amateur or professional plant breeder can exploit to produce novel delphiniums for the future. For most of us, perhaps, it suffices to sit back and enjoy the beauty that nature already provides.
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