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Colchicum sp.

Colchicum sp.
Colchicum sp.

A thank you to Hampshire, England's “Souren” for sharing this photograph via the UBC Botanical Garden Forums. These photographs were taken in September of 2006, in the Kharkiv University Botanical Garden (Ukraine). Much appreciated!

The alkaloid colchicine was first derived from plants in the genus Colchicum, hence the name. In addition to the medicinal uses outlined in the link, colchicine is extremely important in plant breeding research. If applied properly, a colchicine treatment can lead to a doubling of chromosomes in (half of the) gametes, resulting in offspring that are polyploid, or plants that have more than two similar sets of chromosomes.

Polyploidy is important for plant breeding in two respects. First of all, polyploids tend to be more robust than the diploid progenitors. As noted in the Wikipedia entry on polyploidy, many important crops were (unintentionally) bred to be polyploid: apple, banana, durum, maize, cotton, potato, tobacco, strawberry, sugar cane, etc. Compare wild strawberries to domesticated varieties, and you'll understand what's meant by more robust! Colchicine, by helping to induce polyploidy, can help create new ornamental or food varieties of plants. A second use of colchicine in plant breeding work is to overcome hybrid sterility, as is done with triticale.

10 Comments

Would the use of colchicine theoretically have any effect in the attempt to produce a female Encephalartos woodii from male offshoots or clones?

"Would the use of colchicine theoretically have any effect in the attempt to produce a female Encephalartos woodii from male offshoots or clones?"

No, it doesn't change the sex of a dioecious plant, it just doubles the chromosome number by interfering with the cell division processes.

Welcome back, Daniel! I didn't realize how much I missed your site in my ongoing horticultural/botanical self-education until I was deprived of it for a month. Hope you had a restful "vacation."
I am interested that these colchicums do not flop like mine do....perhaps it's a function of the time between their emergence and the photo.

Hi Bev. Perhaps they didn't flop because of the long dry summers, and (as you can see from the pine needles) the shelter of a Pine tree above.
Souren
PS thanks for posting, Daniel - I'm not a very accomplished photographer - but this clump was so beautifully presented... it was easy!

Tulips naked leaves
Flips over but has some weaves
Hips have ladies sleaves?

It is my understanding that spontaneous sex changes happen quite frequently in nature, although the cause is not well understood. I was just posing the query with regard to attempting to coax such a gender reversal might have an increased potential of success by doubling the chromosomes by administering the alkaloid colchicine. What we have at Lotusland is a vertual "Broke Back Mountain" situation with three lonely male Encephalartos woodii. cycads.

Guy;
Maybe this discussion really belongs in a UBC forum, but you raise an interesting question to me, as a physician but botanical ignoramus. "Polyploidy" (I'm using the term rather inaccurately here) does occur rarely in humans, for example an XXY individual is male but abnormal in many ways (Klinefelter's syndrome). But do plants have sex chromosomes??!! I would assume plant gender is probably hormonally mediated based on environmental conditions?? (hence some species' ability to switch genders?)

I have heard they flop because they have been pollinated.

Well if you get a diploid you will have XXYY and a triploid XXXYYY. So just delete after polyploiding some X es or Y s and you get whichever sex you want.
It seems all enhanced that is doubled etc petals flowers such as roses carnations as well as food crops wheat corn are polyploid, as can be surmised by either their multiplied petals or seeds.
There is a fish in which if a school has only females one of them will just change sex and become a male, rather than the obverse in movies about strange attractions in humanoids.

These are gorgeous flowers. They seem to emit their own light!

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