Annuals forum: My encounter with a "star-tipped" mutant zinnia

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Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
Annuals Keeper of Poultry Enjoys or suffers cold winters Bee Lover Dragonflies Garden Photography
Hybridizer Region: United States of America Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Garden Ideas: Level 2
ZenMan
Sep 15, 2014 9:43 PM CST
Hello all,

I have been growing zinnias for several years, saving seeds from my favorites, and even hybridizing them myself. Actually, hybridizing zinnias is surprisingly easy. That evolved into my current hobby of breeding zinnias.

I described my encounter with a "tubular-petaled mutant zinnia" In a previous message thread. That was in 2011 and it added a lot of interest and progress to my zinnia breeding hobby. You don't really expect a zinnia mutation, so when you find one, it is an exciting surprise.

Last year I planted a bed of commercial white cactus zinnias, hoping to find at least a few really good big white zinnias that I would save seeds from. One morning, when I was inspecting that bed to see if any good white specimens had appeared yet, I found this zinnia mutation.

Thumb of 2014-09-16/ZenMan/82fdb3

It was a single white zinnia with very strange petals. They were tubular with a fairly large tube diameter and the ends of petals had five points, like a star.

Thumb of 2014-09-16/ZenMan/5e2d41

I was concerned that the brown tips on the star tips were almost certainly genetic, but I couldn't let this opportunity go by, so I cross-pollinated it extensively with my breeder zinnias. Last winter I grew some of those seeds indoors in the utility room in the basement, where I had several chrome wire shelves set up with fluorescent shoplights for illumination. I grew zinnias indoors there from mid October to mid May of this year, and that was enough time to grow two full generations of zinnias indoors during the Winter. That let me see the results of the crosses with the star-tipped mutant and to grow some samples of F2 recombinants from those crosses.

The crosses with tubular petaled zinnias yielded tubular petaled zinnias with points on the flare-out end of the petal.

Thumb of 2014-09-16/ZenMan/9a9476

I was glad to see some white on the outside of some of the pointy tubes.

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The star-tipped mutant was definitely adding a lot of interest to my tubular petaled zinnias.

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The "ugly duckling" tubular petaled zinnias were definitely moving in the direction of becoming a "beautiful swan".

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The star-tipped tubular petaled zinnias definitely have potential to become a good strain, as their color range and bloom sized are increased by more cross pollination and selection.

But when I crossed the star-tipped mutant with "regular" zinnias (not tubular petaled), a strange (and very surprising thing to me) new zinnia resulted. I'll go into that development in my next message in this thread. More later.

ZM
[Last edited by ZenMan - Sep 15, 2014 9:51 PM (+)]
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Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
Annuals Keeper of Poultry Enjoys or suffers cold winters Bee Lover Dragonflies Garden Photography
Hybridizer Region: United States of America Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Garden Ideas: Level 2
ZenMan
Sep 17, 2014 12:26 AM CST
Hi all,

I wasn't sure what I would get when I crossed the star-tipped mutant zinnia with my "regular" zinnias, but I thought I would either get tubular petals with star tips or regular petals if the start-tipped genes were recessive. As it turned out, the actual results were none of the above. They had a flower form that I had never seen in a zinnia before.



This is a side view of that flower.

Thumb of 2014-09-17/ZenMan/8c8324

This is a close-up of the "petals".



The star-tipped hybrids varied somewhat depending on which "regular" breeder zinnia I crossed it with.

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Did you notice the little spider in the center of that last one? This is a close-up view.

Thumb of 2014-09-17/ZenMan/e9f38c

This one showed at least one "petal" with a different form.

Thumb of 2014-09-17/ZenMan/0ca01b

I wouldn't mind seeing some more of that last variation. Maybe this Winter (indoors) or next Spring.

Thumb of 2014-09-17/ZenMan/ff9dd4

I haven't seen zinnias with these flower forms, but there is a Gaillardia strain called Razzle Dazzle that looks quite similar.

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=gaillardia+razzle+dazzle...

So I am calling my zinnia strain Razzle Dazzle because of the similarity. I will be back-crossing to larger zinnias to increase the bloom size of the Razzle Dazzles and to increase the color range as well.

I am also experimenting with crosses between Razzle Dazzles and other zinnia flower forms. This is new territory for me, and I have no idea what those crosses will produce.

ZM
Name: Anne
Summerville, SC (Zone 8a)
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Xeramtheum
Sep 18, 2014 8:23 AM CST
Those are beautiful! So lacy! What is your method of hand pollinating and how do you isolate the actual flowers/pistils from the pollen/anthers?
"We were all humans until race disconnected us, religion separated us, politics divided us and wealth classified us."

Unknown

Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
Annuals Keeper of Poultry Enjoys or suffers cold winters Bee Lover Dragonflies Garden Photography
Hybridizer Region: United States of America Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Garden Ideas: Level 2
ZenMan
Sep 18, 2014 7:42 PM CST
Xeramtheum said:What is your method of hand pollinating and how do you isolate the actual flowers/pistils from the pollen/anthers?


Zinnias are easy to hand pollinate because the flower parts are relatively large, easily recognizable, and easy to get to. The pollen is produced by fuzzy yellow starfish-shaped florets and it is accepted by thin yellow Y-shaped stigmas that are located at the base of the petals. There are several ways to transfer the pollen from the florets to the petal stigmas. One way is to use a small artist's brush to pick up some pollen on the tip of the brush.

Thumb of 2014-09-19/ZenMan/07a6f7

And simply touch the tip of the brush to the stigmas that you want to pollinate.

Thumb of 2014-09-19/ZenMan/350c57

One brush load may carry enough pollen to pollinate several petals (stigmas). Incidentally, each petal/stigma is attached to just one seed. As you know, zinnia seeds are relatively large and easy to handle. Rather than use an artist's brush, you may prefer to use tweezers, twissors, or forceps to pick a whole pollen-bearing floret.

Thumb of 2014-09-19/ZenMan/471c43

And then, use that fuzzy yellow floret as a pre-loaded "brush" to apply pollen to the target stigmas.

Thumb of 2014-09-19/ZenMan/f2ee55

At one time or another, I have used every possible method: forceps, twissors, tweezers, and artist brush. I am currently using a favorite pair of tweezers. I usually don't use any method of protecting the female blossom from further pollination, because I do a fairly thorough job. However, in the event that high-value female blooms open and you aren't ready to pollinate them yet, I do use improvised "hair nets" to protect those blooms from bees and such.

Thumb of 2014-09-19/ZenMan/8ba74c

However, that is very rarely necessary. The bees aren't trying to do any pollination -- they are simply gathering pollen and/or nectar and any pollination they do is accidental and incidental. You, on the other hand, are deliberately placing pollen, so you have a very big advantage over the bees. I'll be glad to respond to any further questions you have about this or any zinnia topics.

I really enjoy hybridizing zinnias. When I am doing it I am trying to guess what the results of a cross will be. Zinnias can be full of surprises. And they are easy to grow and easy to breed. And quick to give you results. If you start some a little early indoors and set them in the garden after the danger of frost has passed, you may have time to make some crosses, save some seeds, plant them immediately to get a second crop in time to make crosses between your hybrids and save seeds from those for a really wild second year of zinnias. Whether you have time for a second crop depends on the length of your growing season.

ZM


Name: Anne
Summerville, SC (Zone 8a)
Be a voice - not an echo!
Plant and/or Seed Trader Enjoys or suffers cold winters Hybridizer Birds Seed Starter Pollen collector
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Xeramtheum
Sep 18, 2014 7:51 PM CST
For my morning glory's I will cut open a bud that will be opening the next day the night before and remove the anthers then cover it with an organza bag that won't let airborne pollen get through. In the morning I'll hand pollinate and replace the bag for 24 hours. You can get various sizes of these bags at a dollar tree store in the baby shower section.

Thumb of 2014-09-19/Xeramtheum/d6c7a7

"We were all humans until race disconnected us, religion separated us, politics divided us and wealth classified us."

Unknown

Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
Annuals Keeper of Poultry Enjoys or suffers cold winters Bee Lover Dragonflies Garden Photography
Hybridizer Region: United States of America Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Garden Ideas: Level 2
ZenMan
Sep 18, 2014 8:19 PM CST
I wouldn't have thought that morning glory pollen would be airborne. Aren't their pollen grains fairly large?

Zinnia pollen is fairly fine, but much too heavy to be airborne more than a few millimeters. It would "drop like a rock" in still air.

Do you grow your morning glories indoors during the Winter?

ZM
Name: Anne
Summerville, SC (Zone 8a)
Be a voice - not an echo!
Plant and/or Seed Trader Enjoys or suffers cold winters Hybridizer Birds Seed Starter Pollen collector
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Xeramtheum
Sep 18, 2014 8:23 PM CST
Pollen can definitely become airborne - some can even travel over a mile with a good breeze going. I don't grow them in winter .. just don't have the room in the greenhouses ... when I move next Spring I'm getting a supersized greenhouse and probably will be growing some of the African MG's in winter like the Stictocardia.
"We were all humans until race disconnected us, religion separated us, politics divided us and wealth classified us."

Unknown

Name: Jo Ann Gentle
Pittsford NY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cat Lover Heucheras Hellebores Container Gardener
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ge1836
Sep 20, 2014 6:28 AM CST
ZM Those star tipped are so fascinating.Full blooms are wonderful.
Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
Annuals Keeper of Poultry Enjoys or suffers cold winters Bee Lover Dragonflies Garden Photography
Hybridizer Region: United States of America Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Garden Ideas: Level 2
ZenMan
Sep 20, 2014 11:11 AM CST
Hi Jo Ann,

I'm glad you like the star-tipped hybrids. I am crossing my star-tipped and Razzle Dazzle zinnias with several other zinnia types that I have, like my "toothy" zinnias, which were primarily created by inter-crossing Whirligigs that had some "toothy-petal" tendencies. These are examples of my current toothy-petaled zinnias.

Thumb of 2014-09-20/ZenMan/505a13

Thumb of 2014-09-20/ZenMan/95dd08

Like most of the pictures here on ATP, you can click on them to see a larger version and, if you wish, hit the F11 key to see a "full screen" version. I left an "Idea" on that subject a few days ago.

That first toothy appears to have a white backside to its petals, and I am very interested in that possibility. I have no idea what the results of those "toothy X star-tipped" crosses will look like, but I am looking forward to finding out this Winter, because I plan to grow a few of those crosses indoors (not easy to do). I hope that my indoor zinnia project will produce a supply of interesting zinnias to grow outside next Spring.

ZM
Name: Debra
Garland, TX (NE Dallas suburb) (Zone 8a)
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lovemyhouse
Sep 20, 2014 12:19 PM CST
I want those, too. HOW long did you say until seeds are commercially available? Hilarious! Hilarious! Hilarious! Hilarious!
If you don't ask, the answer is always 'no.'
Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
Annuals Keeper of Poultry Enjoys or suffers cold winters Bee Lover Dragonflies Garden Photography
Hybridizer Region: United States of America Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Garden Ideas: Level 2
ZenMan
Dec 4, 2014 10:12 PM CST
I didn't say. I am growing some zinnias indoors now, in order to get in a couple of generations of zinnia breeding before next Spring, and I have a few indoor Razzle Dazzle specimens that I am working with.


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I am crossing the Razzle Dazzles with many of my indoor "breeder" zinnias, because I am really trying to pump up my Razzle Dazzle strain with all kinds of new genes.

ZM
Name: Jo Ann Gentle
Pittsford NY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cat Lover Heucheras Hellebores Container Gardener
Birds Region: New York Irises Garden Ideas: Master Level Avid Green Pages Reviewer Lilies
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ge1836
Dec 5, 2014 4:29 AM CST
I just love these.
Name: Debra
Garland, TX (NE Dallas suburb) (Zone 8a)
Service dogs: Angels with paws.
Dragonflies Dog Lover I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Photography Bee Lover Plays in the sandbox
Butterflies Region: Texas I sent a postcard to Randy! Charter ATP Member Annuals Garden Sages
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lovemyhouse
Dec 5, 2014 6:23 AM CST
Yes, you didn't say--it was intended as a compliment wrapped inside a joke. Smiling I tip my hat to you. I like them. Thumbs up
If you don't ask, the answer is always 'no.'
Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
Annuals Keeper of Poultry Enjoys or suffers cold winters Bee Lover Dragonflies Garden Photography
Hybridizer Region: United States of America Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Garden Ideas: Level 2
ZenMan
Dec 6, 2014 8:15 PM CST
Thank You! Me too.
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
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gemini_sage
Jan 26, 2015 10:27 AM CST
What a fascinating and beautiful development you have made! Hurray! I tip my hat to you. Thumbs up
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Taqiyyah
Maryland (Zone 7a)
Container Gardener Winter Sowing Plant and/or Seed Trader Roses Salvias Seed Starter
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lovesblooms
Feb 2, 2015 12:31 PM CST
I've lurked, entertained and intrigued by many of your posts on breeding zinnias elsewhere, Zenman, just because I adore zinnias but didn't realize how much more they could be adored until I ran into your series. I hadn't checked in recently and I didn't know you were here on ATP, either, and when I saw your results just now I forgot to exhale for a couple of seconds. I realized it's not just the beauty of them, it's that the first one was actually kind of scary--like something I would back slowly away from in my garden. But its offspring have the same features--flaunt them proudly, in fact, and the "regular" zinnia I love is transformed into this extraordinary beauty by them. Just amazing. Thank you for sharing.
Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
Annuals Keeper of Poultry Enjoys or suffers cold winters Bee Lover Dragonflies Garden Photography
Hybridizer Region: United States of America Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Garden Ideas: Level 2
ZenMan
Feb 4, 2015 5:08 PM CST
Hi Taqiyyah,

"... the first one was actually kind of scary--like something I would back slowly away from in my garden."

I had a similar reaction to the appearance of my original "star-tipped" mutant. It looked kind of ugly, and those brown tips on the star tips were troublesome, because I feared that they would show up in the hybrids. And they did show up in some of the hybrids with my tubulars, but in many they did not, and just contributed the star points to the ends of the petal tubes, like in this picture. (You can click on the pictures in this forum to see larger versions, and hit the F11 key for a less cluttered view.)

Thumb of 2015-02-04/ZenMan/57da1e

I have been growing a few zinnias indoors, in order to produce some advanced hybrid seeds to plant out in the garden after the weather warms up this Spring. That star-tipped mutant has contributed some interesting variations in my zinnias. I have been crossing them with some of my "toothy" zinnias, like this specimen.

Thumb of 2015-02-04/ZenMan/2b05aa

I think there are some interesting possible interactions between the star-tipped genes and the toothy genes, and I hope to be seeing some new results this year.

Incidentally, you are invited to join in and comment on zinnias, both here and elsewhere.

ZM
Name: Linda
Omaha, N.E (Zone 5b)
Always room to plant one more!
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freedombel
Feb 8, 2015 8:43 AM CST
ZenMan...what a talented hobby, even what you said was scary or ugly ducklings I found to be pretty,
how fun to have unique flowers like you have!
You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because they have roses!
Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
Annuals Keeper of Poultry Enjoys or suffers cold winters Bee Lover Dragonflies Garden Photography
Hybridizer Region: United States of America Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Garden Ideas: Level 2
ZenMan
Feb 9, 2015 12:09 AM CST
Hi Linda,

Breeding zinnias is a interesting hobby, and anyone could do it. Just saving seeds from your favorite zinnias would be easy to do, and that would constitute breeding, and actually could be quite effective. And if you happened to get a mutant, then saving seeds from it and/or crossing it with other favorite zinnias could get really interesting. Both of the mutants that are the basis for most of my current "exotic" zinnias came unexpectedly from commercial seed packages. I am currently growing some zinnias indoors, and this is one of my current interesting specimens.

Thumb of 2015-02-09/ZenMan/c447c0

It also has some of the "toothy" genes, but my "regular" toothies have three teeth at the end of each petal, while this one has a random number of teeth per petal, and the teeth can appear anywhere on the petal.

If you wanted to grow some unusual zinnias, the Whirligig strain that Stokes Seeds offers produces many unusual specimens in addition to the few multicolored specimens that they show. The reason that the Whirligigs have so much variation is that they were produced by an inter-species cross between Z. violacea (elegans) and Z. haageana (which contributes the multi-colored petals). The toothy trait that I have been selecting for also came from the Whirligigs.

I have been thinking about writing an article touting zinnia breeding as a fun hobby, but I have been so busy with my indoor zinnias and extending the size of my outdoor garden, that I don't seem to have time to write the article right now.

ZM
Name: Judy
Simpsonville SC (Zone 7b)
Plant and/or Seed Trader Peonies Garden Ideas: Level 1 Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I helped beta test the first seed swap
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SCButtercup
Feb 9, 2015 5:09 AM CST
I just read this thread now and I'm so excited to see your new strain of star tipped zinnias. Its so luckythat someone with Zenmans know how spotted that mutant! In my own garden I grow a couple varieties of open pollinated but this past winter received so many zinnias in swaps, and also purchased some at end of season sale in winter. So I'm fast becoming a zinnia addict. Will be waiting for your new varieties to become available. If you need help growing out Id love to help and will follow instructions to bag blooms.

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