Gold and Silver dusted perianths

August 7, 2012

Categories: Breeding, Daffodil Types, Hybridizing, Species

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Having just received the American Daffodil Journal I notice there is a page titled “What Causes Diamond Dusting”.
The old red Nerine (Fothergillii Major) is a perfect example of gold dusting into the red segments of the flower. Nerines and daffodils both belong to the Amaryllis family. It would be an interesting research project to define what causes this phenomenon in daffodils.
My thoughts on this would be, that it is a chemical in the cellular structure in the petals and sepals that make up the perianth. This chemical may even be crystalised in some way that it reflects light to give this sparkling effect. I also believe that there are less daffodils now with the dusting feature than what there were 60 years ago.  There maybe a reason for this and I can only speculate why. I would assume that this dusting effect came from poeticus species originally. I also would imagine that daffodils being bred at present would be over 20 generations from the species. In divisions 1 and 2 the poeticus genetics are getting less prominent after this time. In red and yellow hybrids this feature appears to be disappearing, whereas, in the 3W-W’s silver dusting of the perianth segments is still relatively easy to find due to a higher concentration of poeticus traits. A wonderful example of silver dusting is the late Jim O’More’s Sea Dream.
One of my crosses with daffodils in the early 1950’s was Marksman x Narvik.  My 2Y-R’s today go back to this original cross after approximately seven generations. Marksman was from seed collected by Alexander M. Wilson (around the late 1920’s) and the seed was then given to Miss G. Evelyn to grow to flower.  I have always regarded Marksman as the best example I ever grew of a daffodil with a gold dusted yellow perianth. It absolutely sparkled in sunlight. My range of 2Y-R’s descended from my original Marksman x Narvik cross is still giving me my best red and yellow daffodils but now show virtually no sign of gold dusting.
Come this September I will look more closely at some of these newer 2Y-R’s from this line to see if I can detect any trace still of the dusting effect. I often thought it would be an interesting experiment to breed daffodils especially with this gold or silver dusting trait.  This would be an interesting line of breeding for some younger hybridist to follow, there is no doubt that daffodils with the gold or silver diamond dusting in the flower are real gems.
One other interesting point, it has often been written that the four daffodils Miss Evelyn named from the seed Alexander Wilson gave her were all from the same cross. They were – Caerleon, Diolite, Marksman and Rustom Pasha.  I did not grow Caerleon but the other three I grew for some time many years ago. I could never understand how these three cultivars that I grew could have developed from the one cross – they were so completely different from one another. Rustom Pasha with it elongated oval shaped deep yellow perianth segments and its deep red sunproof crown where as Diolite had a clear yellow large triangular perianth with a straight narrow clear yellow crown edged with orange/red. Marksman was the smaller flower of these three and was the only one with a gold dusted perianth and a crown of more conventional shape.  All my years of breeding daffodils tells me that these three cultivars could not have had exactly the same parents. Alexander Wilsons red and yellow daffodils, including his greatest exhibition and breeding variety Carbineer were descended from a line that went back to Firebrand (G.H. Engleheart) and then to Edward Leed’s most famous breeding variety, Princess Mary. Princess Mary was raised from back crossing poeticus on to trumpet cultivars. 
John A. Hunter
195 Patons Road
R.D.1 Richmond
New Zealand
Phone 64 3 544 0011

2 responses to “Gold and Silver dusted perianths”

  1. Harold Koopowitz, California Harold Koopowitz says:

    Hi John:
    The sparkle is not from a special chemical in the cells but rather the physical properties of the cell that causes light to be reflected. A thin layer of air under the cell and even extra large cells, like tiny lenses, raised above the surface of the petal would help scatter light. Perhaps breeding for “smooth” petals with a thicker waxy cuticle diminished the sparkle.

    I don’t think anyone has bred for sparkle. That would be an interesting direction to take.


  2. Lachlan Keown says:

    Hi, as soon as I saw this message I thought of this photo I have of a seedling. When I checked, sure enough it is a Sea Dream seedling (x Egmont Snow). A good example of this effect I think, I always wondered too what caused it.


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