Patience and the Plant Breeder's Art
Texas Dawn waterlily created by Ken Landon (credit: Texas)
Breeding plants is one of the most satisfying of intellectual endeavors and its practical application combines art, science, and creativity. Anyone who has ever eaten a tomato, planted a garden, or purchased a bunch of flowers has come in contact with the results of a plant breeders work. The breeding process teaches the practitioner about biodiversity, genetics, nutrition, beauty, economics, and, above all, patience.
A reminder of these fact comes from a plant breeder in Texas, Ken Landon, who is a Vietnam War veteran who breeds waterlilies. Mr. Landon has introduced new, named waterlily varieties he has created as well as helped the conservation of wild species in its native habitat. He rediscovered a waterlily species in Mexico long thought extinct. The aquatic plants are members of the genus, Nymphaea, and along with the related genus of sacred lotus, Nelumbo, have been admired since the time of the Buddha. Buddha is often depicted sitting on a lotus flower and holding a single bud. He didn't know about plant breeding but he certainly recognized pure beauty. The lotus has been cultivated for over 2500 years.
Buddha witting on a lotus holding a bud (credit: Wikipedia)
Mr. Landon is responsible for a waterlily display garden in a public park in San Angelo, Texas. He is the conservator of the International Waterlily Collection, a living germplasm bank. All plant breeding requires a diverse spectrum of genetics to develop new forms. The seeds of a cross must be germinated, plants grown, and flowered before the results of the breeding becomes obvious. The entire process from cross to new variety often takes up 10 years in some species from pollination to new variety. The goals of Ken Landon's efforts include development of a shade tolerant waterlily and dwarf forms that can be grown in a tub on anyone's deck or patio. One of his varieties, Texas Dawn, was named the official Texas State Waterlily and is now available commercially.
The Buddha would appreciate the patient and results of plant breeders like Ken Landon.