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ISSUE 6 (16):

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By Dmitriy Rogatskin (Smolensk)

Continuation of series of articles. See the beginning in the issues 6/7 – "What can you name us" (article only on Russian) and in the issues 9/10- "A disputable question".

I should say that I am not an admirer of colored and other abnormal forms. I rather have a bent for classics. But finding plants with mutations and making them live is a kind of sport for me.

It so happened that I mainly specialize in growing Gymnocalycium and Turbinicarpus. Most colored forms actually belong to Gymnocalycium. Some time before Walery Kalishev turned to me with a request to try to identify some colored plants whose exact names and origin were unknown. After I undertook the task and analyzed a number of facts I came to the conclusion that the idea may be successful only in one case – if there would be a reference book containing the descriptions of all existing forms given by authors. This is quite impossible as to do it every cactophile who got an abnormal form should be a biologist and publish immediately the description with Latin name. There is no sense in comparing colored forms to normal green ones or their descriptions. I will try to explain why in the course of this article.

In recent years I sowed more than 350 portions of seeds of Gymnocalycium with different shelf-life times, germinating level and received from different sources: respectable foreign companies and very unreliable ones. I found dozens of seedlings with abnormal coloring of the stem. Most of them were grafted onto Peireskiopsis. The variants of their further development come into three categories:

  1. After grafting onto Peireskiopsis:
    1. the plant grows green immediately and develops normally
    2. the plant grows green or brownish-green but develops slowly; its stem is deformed and does not form typical structures. In most cases it gets stagnated and dies.
    3. the growing point of the abnormal seedling (a) reduces, the plant gives an offset that develops normally or grows monstrous.
  2. A colored form grafted onto Peireskiopsis after placing in the sunlight:
    1. grows typically green;
    2. grows darker, brownish; after another grafting onto the constant stock it grows green;
    3. after another grafting it does not grow fully green, it remains pale green:
    4. 1 or 2 ribs remain pale green or yellowish (fully or partly). In most cases they are at the lower part of the plant and seem slightly pressed in.
    5. the plant gives an apical increase, and the colored part remains at the bottom of the stem.
  3. Further development of a colored plant:
    1. the colored form develops in a stable way;
    2. the colored form develops during several months then, for no apparent reasons, it dies.

I would like to underline that the above mentioned data is based only on my own experience and I do not claim it to be universal. Nevertheless, even this small material lets us divide the seedlings with different degree of color deviation into three groups: with optional, obligatory and lethal deviation.

Optional deviation – the probability of developing a colored form exists but it is unlikely. The seedlings of the first and second categories (see above) refer to this group. In the first case when we graft and regraft seedlings we can see a clear light green line of epidermis and underlying tissues at the cutting. In the second case even if epidermis or above lying tissues are yellow or pink the underlying tissues are greenish.

Obligatory deviation – in most cases a full value colored form develops. The cutting does not show any green color.

Lethal deviation - the group comprises white semi-transparent or transparent seedlings. As a rule they die during a day after grafting and most likely are unable of gaseous exchange.

Nevertheless, serious conclusions demand competent research and large research material. So, it is logical to just look at particular cases in detail.

As a result of successful grafting of about 50 seedlings of Gymnocalycium with color deviations (unfortunately they were not counted exactly) there were obtained 6 genuine colored forms. Only 4 of them are still alive.

1. Gymnocalycium parvulum (subgenus Trichomosemineum). The seeds were received from company (Меsа Garden(. Only 3 of 24 seeds germinated. They germinated late – in 12 and 14 days (if the seeds are fresh they typically germinate on the 3rd – 4th day and lose germinating capacity quickly). The seedlings were feeble. The first was light green, the 2nd – white with pinkish top, and the 3rd - semi-transparent. All the three seedlings were grafted onto Peireskiopsis. The 3rd seedling withered and dried out during 12 hours. The 1st started growing in a week and developed into a normal plant with a typical habitus. The 2nd seedling showed neither negative nor positive reaction then started growing actively and developed into a wonderful bright crimson form.

However, even at the first sight on the normal (1st) and colored (2nd) seedlings it was obvious that they are different plants. The 1st was a typical Gymnocalycium of Trichomosemineum subgenus referring to G. Stellatum group of forms. The 2nd was remarkable for its sharper and clear cut ribs, closely spaced areolas, a stiff prominent polymorph spine colored light brownish-yellow (the norm is 5 fully clasped spines with dark basis). That is why it is impossible to identify the species of this plant just at sight.

I can't say anything about the habitus of the two latter seedlings as they are not big enough yet.

Recently I've stopped grafting all the seedlings with color deviation as I could guess what I would get in this or that case. Nor I graft white semi-transparent seedlings; they are not viable as a rule. I only graft a colored seedling if it lingered for a week not turning green or transparent. If grafting is successful such seedlings give viable colored forms (see obligatory color deviation). Moreover, in 2000 I let all the light green and yellowish seedlings grow on their own roots having placed them in a separate tray. About half of them died. There were 6 seedlings left: G. schatziianum, G. fleischerianum and 4 G. andreae. All of them were raised out of "brand" seeds. They developed about 10 times slower than normal plants. G. fleischerianum grew yellowish-light-green, G. schatziianum turned to greenish-pink-brownish, and all G. andreae became bright crimson. The latter grew more slowly than the others, so I grafted two of them as I believed them to be genuine colored forms. However, they started growing actively on the stocks and grew normal green with only slight variations from the norm. I failed to root them (see the end of the article about the failures in forming roots). Now the remaining seedlings on own roots stay in greenhouse and are unlike normal plants. And another point is that their roots are very weak.


From the compiler. From the compiler. In the Cultivar issues 4(5) and 5(6) we have published materials on experiments held by amateurs Nicolay Shemorakov and Vyacheslav Filippov. The results are ambiguous. Anyway, the experiments were not enough to come to any conclusion. The following article is yet another research in that direction. It is particularly valuable as the author describes the results for both experimental and control group.

By Dmitriy Rogatskin (Smolensk)
Several years ago I exposed the seeds of 20 different species (not only Gymnocalycium) to ultraviolet and infrared rays using a physiotherapy device to see their influence on germinating capacity. The result was quite unexpected – 4 of 16 seedlings were colored. Two of them survived and grew into bright yellow plants.

Being inspired I bought the rest of those same seeds and sowed most of them having treated the seeds with semiconductor solid-state laser. As a result 33 of 120 seedlings were colored. I was only surprised that in both cases none of the remaining species also exposed to radiation showed any mutations. I realized why it happened in about half a year when normal seedlings of A. niveum showed splitting of attributes. A quarter of them turned to be colored, and half of them had thick white specks. The rest of the seedlings were bigger and had less brownish specks. Therefore the seeds were of hybrid origin, apparently of first generation. My guess proved to be true when I sowed the rest of the seeds without any treatment. The laser had nothing to do with it. Then I started another experiment. I treated the seeds of about 50 species with X-rays of different exposition. The seeds were both dry and after soaking, they also had different intervals of treatment after sowing. Moreover, the greenhouse itself was placed in the X-ray room two meters from the device. The results exceeded all expectations, in other words they were null. All the seedlings were green, normal and without any surprises. At the same on the top of my wardrobe at home I have got 3 mutants. So I decided to stop tormenting seeds.


Why variegated forms in most cases can grow on their own roots and colored (not green) cannot? According to Igor Skulkin, Nicolay Shemorakov and Anatoliy Mikhaltsev they have enough chlorophyll to do it. Why variegated forms are like their green fellows, and single-colored in most cases differ a lot? We of course can lay the blame on hybridity and stock. It is rather difficult to prove or disprove this version. Meanwhile, we can come to another conclusion. When genuine, fully colored forms appear there happens a complex change of the plant's properties: a change of the tissues' color, failures of root-building, deviations in the stem and spines structure and so on. I am not an expert here and not a botanist, though I happen to deal with certain branches of biology and this allows me to use the term "mutation" with understanding.

It doesn't really matter if my suggestions will be proved or disproved. Any way it will be a step toward the truth.


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