I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. - Mark Twain

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Breaking the rules

This lonely little pepper pod came from a plant which came from a seed which came from a plant ('Black Pearl' ornamental pepper) I paid way too much money for last year. Although I got several seedlings this year that looked like the parent plant from last year, the one this pod came from had normal green leaves instead of the almost black leaves characteristic of the variety. It did have a completely black fruit though, which as seen in the photo is halfway to red at this point. Hopefully I left it on the plant long enough for the seeds to be viable.

The usual pod shape on 'Black Pearl' is pretty much round, but this one had a little bit of narrowing at the end so I thought what the muck, let's see what it makes next year. 'Black Pearl' is supposed to be stable, since it has PVP (Plant Variety Protection) status, but the flower from last year's plant that provided the seed for the current year's plant probably had relations with another pepper plant, as the current plant has 'normal' leaves.

Even though the conventional rule is don't save seeds from hybrids cause you don't know what you're gonna get, sometimes that's the whole point. I'd like to see if maybe an individual in the next generation gets some variegation in the leaves, while still producing the inky black fruit. Typically I'll germinate the rule-breakers and see how they grow out for a while. If they are not interesting they can always join the compost pile.

For a really striking ornamental 'black' pepper plant which does have variegated leaves, I prefer a variety called 'Royal Black African'. I got the seed from Amishland Seeds, grew it out for the first time last year, and it was stunning, just as showy as the 'Black Pearl' but with green, violet, and white streaking in some of the leaves, and more pointed fruit (which I like better than round). Even with a late start from seed it caught up with the 'Black Pearl' (which was at least 18" tall at time of purchase) in a few months. The plant in the photo below is still fairly small so there aren't as many dark leaves yet; don't take it as representative of a mature plant. When the plant is mature, the dark leaves dominate and it is much more noteworthy.

The seedlings this year were from my own saved seed, and I think there is even more streaking this year, but since the little darlings are pretty much growing in the shade they are probably not normal specimens. Still pretty though.

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange carries a variety called 'Royal Black', and from the website description of the variety I think it's the same as 'Royal Black African', or very, very close to it (the leaves in the website photo appear to be green, however, not dark and streaked, per the accompanying description).

So the season is winding down, the garden was subject to a humiliating lack of sun, and the roller coaster weather helped not one little bit.

Can't wait 'til next year!

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