Maintaining a Complex Mutant Japanese Morning Glory System

By Arlan Ten Kley (atenkley) on February 5, 2011

Do you admire the old woodblock prints of exotic looking mutant Japanese Morning Glories? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see them growing? What about saving your own seed to grow these elegant plants again? It is possible and can be done. In this article I'll use the Kyushu University designated Q0426 blue feathered double flower system to explain how to accomplish it.

I call this Q0426 line a "system", because it can only be maintained and perpetuated through diligent, deliberate, conscientious, and systematic work! The gene pool is maintained within seed lots and not individual seeds as we do with , say, a large flowered Japanese Morning Glory. As challenging as it may be, the rewards are significant. To obtain the desired plants, several seeds are germinated in order to select those plants with the appreciated characteristics. The extra effort involved in maintaining a complex mutant system is part of the enjoyment! 2011-02-04/atenkley/cd6357

The Q0426 system brings together two specific recessive genes that when either is expressed create sterile plants that cannot set seed. The irony is that it is these sterile plants, expressing both recessives together, which have the characteristics we appreciate and the reason we grow the plants. To produce seed with the highest probability of creating these plants, the system is maintained through the heterozygous or "split" carriers of these genes. 

The first gene we'll discuss is the recessive feathered (fe) gene. It causes the flower to be shredded into finely split elements, often with larger, flag type structures on the ends of the elements. This flower is typically sterile. The Japanese have selected for various "flag" structures which are appreciated for their artistic appeal. The Q0426 system produces what the Japanese translations call the "wind bell" which is a reversed bell type structure at the end of a thin supporting element. Because the normal flower of Q0426 is dark blue with a white throat, these feathered elements have a thin white filament supporting a dark blue bell structure. This creates a very pleasing effect. The leaves of the  feathered plant are also distinct. The leaf edges are heavily curled, which when applied to certain leaf shapes creates what the Japanese call a "dragon claw" leaf. When observed closely, which you must do to fully appreciate these feathered flowers and unique leaves, the effect is very artistic, photogenic, and something to be admired.

2011-02-05/atenkley/530352The second gene is the recessive duplicate (dp) gene which creates a true double flower. When present in a circular flower, it creates a very nice ruffled double flower that is also sterile. The example to the left is from a different feathered system called Q0456.  When the doubling is present in a feathered flower, it creates many more feathered elements, resulting in a very nice, full, feathered flower which is the crowning gem of this strain, and the ultimate reason for maintaining the system. 

The System Seed Lot

To be considered a system seed lot, the group of seed must be tested and trialed to insure that its seeds carries both the feathered and the duplicate genes. When these seeds are planted, the following six different plant types can be produced, all have dark blue flowers and yellow leaves. The theoretical proportions (in 1/16ths) are in parenthesis: single round flowers with heart shaped leaves (3), single round flowers with tri-lobed leaves (6) [these are called parent plants, more on this later!], double round flowers with heart shaped leaves (1), double round flowers with tri-lobed leaves (2), single feathered flowers with dragon claw leaves (3), double feathered flowers with dragon claw leaves (1). 
The challenge of maintaining a system of this complexity is knowing which seed lots carry both genes. Some seed lots could carry neither, some just the duplicate gene, some just the feathered gene, and some carrying both! Those that have the potential for carrying both genes come only from what we call the parent plants.  To sort this all out, each individual parent plant's seed is segregated into lots and kept separate. After collecting, each seed lot is trialed or proofed by growing a sample to determine its potential. I'll discuss the details if this a bit later. 

The fe/co Relationship and How it Simplifies the Process of Selecting for feathered (fe)

This particular system has the addition of the recessive cordate (co) gene which expresses itself as the heart shaped leaf. So why is this important? It ultimately simplifies the seed selection process. The cordate gene is found on the same chromosome as the feathered gene and they are very close together, resulting in a strong link. One of this chromosome type in the system has the cordate (co) gene only and no feathered (fe) gene, and the other chromosome type has no cordate (co) gene but contains the feathered (fe) gene. As each seed and the resulting plant always has a pair of these chromosomes, each carrying one of these gene configurations, the possible paired combinations in a given plant are;( fe/fe and +/+),( fe/+ and +/co), and (+/+ and co/co). The + indicates the wild type, or non-mutated gene. As stated before, both of these mutant genes are recessive and so for either or both to be expressed in the plant, the seed needs two copies of either or each. The (fe/fe and +/+) seed will produce plants that have feathered flowers (and are sterile) with tri-lobed (not cordate) shaped dragon claw leaves (not containing a pair of co, but heavily rolled because of the paired fe). The (+/+ and co/co) seed will produce plants with flowers that are round and not feathered (because there is no pair of fe) and heart shaped leaves (because of the paired co). To perpetuate the system we do not want to save seed from these plants because they can not carry the fe gene. The (fe/+ and +/co) plants will produce single flowers (only a single fe gene) and regular tri-lobed leaves (only a single co gene). These are the parent plants.  The seed from these plants is


 saved for further testing to determine which to save and continue the system. The first leaves on plants with heart shaped or tri-lobed leaves and circular flowers will often have their edges somewhat curled up, but not nearly to the extent of the dragon claw leaves on the plants with feathered flowers. As the plant matures, this characteristic may become less prominent. The Japanese descriptively refer to these leaves as having the ability to hold water! 


Determining the carrier of duplicate (dp)

We are not done yet! We have learned that the single round flowered, tri-lobed leaved plants carry a single feathered gene, but we still need to determine which of these plants carry a copy of the duplicate gene. The only way to know for sure is to grow a quantity of the seed from each parent plant with tri-lobed leaves and see if any double flowers develop. If the test group produces even one double flower, either a double round flower or double feathered flower, then you know that the rest of the seed that you saved from that plant (remember to keep all the seed lots separate) also can carry the duplicate gene and is the seed lot to save. This is the seed lot that can be labeled as Q0426 and should produce the various plant types in the earlier mentioned proportions. 2011-02-05/atenkley/065540

If a seed lot does not produce double flowers through testing, then one must assume that it does not carry all of the desired characteristics. Some of the seed from tri-lobed plants will carry the feathered gene only, so they can produce single feathered flowers, but never double feathered flowers. The seed from the plants with heart shaped leaves will never produce plants with feathered flowers , but could produce nice double added bonus! 

The only seed lots that should ever be labeled as Q0426 will come from plants with tri-lobed leaves and have been tested and proven to also contain the duplicate gene. Theoretically, two thirds of all the plants with tri-lobed leaves and circular single flowers should carry the duplicate gene. 

2011-02-05/atenkley/a35e56The desired and sought after mutant plants with dragon claw leaves and feathered flowers are smaller in stature and slower growing than the normal Japanese Morning Glories. For this reason alone, it is a good idea to grow these plants 


in containers. Container culture also allows you to observe the plants, leaves and flowers more closely to appreciate their uniqueness. You can select the plants that will develop the feathered flowers at the cotyledon stage after germination. The cotyledons of these plants will be distorted and rolled up, while the non-feathered plants will have more normal cotyledons. If in doubt, wait a couple days for the first true leaves to develop which will confirm the feathered plants by their dragon-claw leaves.  All cotyledons produced from this system should be a chartreuse green color and often have red highlights. Select the feathered plants (curled cotyledons and tightly curled dragon claw leaves) to transplant into your favorite containers and plant the others in the garden for enjoyment there. If they are parent plants, save the seed to perpetuate the system. You can not determine the presence of the paired duplicate gene at the cotyledon stage of the is only revealed through its flower!  You will have to wait until the first bloom to know if your plant has the coveted double feathered flowers........!

There are other feathered systems of Japanese Morning Glory using the fe/co combination.  The same principles and processes I've described can be applied to these systems, though the specific traits may flower color, extent of leaf curling, leaf color, etc.

Related articles:
cordate, duplicate, feathered, Japanese Morning Glory, mutant

About Arlan Ten Kley
I am a hobbyist who loves to learn the details of my various interests. My interests are numerous and varied, sometimes creating conflict in managing time between them. As I tend to focus intently on the current interest, the others may suffer until their turn in the cycle. Whatever the current interest, it always is approached with a closer look.....

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