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Will an Australian aborigine conquer Russia?

No, we are not talking about Crocodile Dundee, but about a novelty on the European market - the Australian endemic bird poultry. It is not too late to buy the seeds of this plant and try to grow it - crops can be produced until June. True, the seed is offered so far only to wholesale buyers, but in vain. We are sure that the difficulties of seed reproduction of this annual will not frighten amateur flower growers, who, in fact, should appreciate its decorative merits. Hopefully, it will only be a matter of time before the seeds are available in retail. Meet ...

Ptylotus sublime(Ptilotus exaltatus) - one of the representatives of the most numerous genus in the Amaranth family, numbering about 100 species. Their distribution zone extends from tropical to arid regions of Australia, one species is found in Malaysia, another in Indonesia. Most of these are annual or perennial herbaceous plants, but there are also shrubs. The genus was first described by the Dutch botanist Robert Brown in 1810.

It got its name from the Greek «ptylon " - feathers, for fluffy apical spicate or capitate inflorescences, colored in different species in gentle tones of greenish, white, cream, pink or purple. The Australians are very proud of their endemics, so they came up with many affectionate names for the birdies - "cat tails", "sheep tails", "fox tails", "Mulla Mulla" (not even all aborigines can decipher the last name).

Ptylotus sublime - "Pink Mulla Mulla", "sheep's tail" - one of the most decorative species. Distributed in arid (arid) areas of Central and Eastern Australia. It is an annual herb with tough stems, leaves and inflorescences. Leaves are silvery-green, oblong-ovoid, 4 to 15 cm long, concentrated mainly in the lower part of the plant. Spike-shaped inflorescences of a conical shape rise on the tops of weakly leafy stems. The inflorescences are large, up to 15 cm long and 5 cm in diameter, pink or lilac in color. The plant blooms for a very long time, in Australia this period occurs at the end of winter and all spring, before the onset of summer drought.

Attempts to cultivate this species, like its relatives, have been undertaken for a long time, but they did not always end in success. Usually they tried to grow ptylotus from seeds that sprout very uncommonly and give a low percentage of germination. This is due to the structure of the seed, which has an annular embryo surrounding the perisperm, and dense integuments that protect the seed from drying out. The mechanisms of overcoming dormancy in ptlotus seeds remain unexplored. It is known that neither cold nor warm stratification enhances germination. But scarification or treatment with gibberellic acid at a concentration of 2000 mg / l for 24 hours increases the germination rate up to 80%. Poultry can be propagated by cuttings; there are successful examples of clonal micropropagation. By the way, in industrial floriculture, the main hopes are pinned on this method of reproduction.

German seed company Benary has developed an industrial seed multiplication technology Ptylotus sublime«Joey ", considering this plant promising for container cultivation and for cutting. This variety has spectacular dense spikelets of neon pink color 7-10 cm high.The plant is compact, low, 30-40 cm.

Seeds of ptylotus are rather small, with a poppy seed, 1 g contains up to 800 pieces. You can sow from January to June. Sowing substrate should be moderately moist, well-drained, with a pH of 5.5-6.5. Excess moisture can cause uncomfortable germination. The seeds are light-sensitive, so they are not embedded in the soil. At an optimum temperature of + 24 + 26 degrees, seedlings appear on the 5-7th day. It is important for them to provide high illumination and gradually reduce the temperature to + 22 + 25 degrees.

After a few days, you can start feeding with nitrogen fertilizers with a small content of phosphorus. All amaranths are big nitrogen lovers, so feeding is very important. They should be held weekly. (For amateur flower growers who decide to plant the ptylotus in a container, it is recommended to add a long-acting Osmocote fertilizer in the amount of 6 g / l of substrate to the soil during planting).

The next step will be to lower the temperature to +18 degrees. Watering at this stage should be moderate as the soil dries out.

6-8 week old seedlings are planted in pots with well-drained soil. No more than one plant is planted in pots with a diameter of 10-15 cm, otherwise the roots quickly intertwine and the plants lose their stability. You can plant 3 plants in 3 liter containers. Lighting must be bright at all stages of growing, then the plants bush better and give more flower stalks. The attitude to the length of the day in the bird is neutral, but the increase in the amount of light has a positive effect on the quality.

The time from sowing to flowering is 12 weeks for plants grown in 10 cm pots, 14 weeks in 15 cm pots and 16 weeks in 3 liter pots. To increase compactness and accelerate flowering, a double retardant treatment can be applied, at 10 and 12 weeks of growing. It is recommended to treat with CCC at a concentration of 100-250 mg / l for plants in 15 cm pots. The length of the stems is halved, the number of stems does not change. Although paclobutrazole reduces the length of the stems, it makes the shape of the plant less attractive.

The period of selling potted plants and obtaining cuttings is profitable from late April-early May to late September-early November.

This species is great for sunny beds of drought-resistant annuals, blooms all summer. Well tolerates container maintenance with limited watering. In Europe, it is combined with such plants as pentas, verbena, periwinkle, mealy salvia, eucalyptus Ghana. It is practically not susceptible to pests and diseases, however, in conditions of high air humidity, flowers can be affected by Botrytis. The cut can be used fresh and as dried flowers, it is stored for a long time and well, for 2-3 weeks, it stands in water. The florists will certainly like it.

In Germany, Ptylotus exalted became the sales leader back in 1996. This species is still the only one allowed for export from Australia. But in 2006, the results of 13 years of Australian research on the decorative qualities and possibilities of using various types of ptlotus in industrial floriculture were published, covering more than 100 seed samples collected from natural habitats and obtained from commercial producers.

The germination rate of various seed samples varied enormously, mainly from 2 to 70%, and was the highest, of course, in commercial samples. The first attempts at hybridization have not yet been crowned with success, there are some hopes for experiments on pollen germination in artificial environments, which will help to better understand the biology of pollination in poultry, but so far these studies are not completed. In general, it is noted that the widespread introduction of ptylotus into culture is limited by insufficient knowledge of the mechanisms of seed germination and pollination.

Ptilotus polytachys

Ptilotus obovatus

Ptilotus clementii

However, these preliminary studies have yielded a number of interesting results. One of the types - Ptilotus polytachys - showed unprecedented stability in cut, standing in the water for about 7 weeks. True, he was considered not very attractive because of the green color of the inflorescences and they predicted the future of a filler for bouquets. It is not suitable for dried flowers, since it has fragile stems.

Another potential novelty for the flower industry is Ptilotus obovatus - with compact branched spherical inflorescences 10-15 mm in diameter, from white to lilac-pink, on peduncles 30 cm long. Stands in a bouquet for 2 weeks, suitable for drying. And his seed germination is decent, close to 96%.This type is considered suitable not only for cutting, but also for containers and for open ground. The significant variability of plants grown from different seed samples allows for the anticipation of future success in breeding this species.

A number of species appear to be very cost-effective for potting - Ptilotus clementii, Ptilotus fusiformis, Ptilotus polakii, Ptilotus chamaecladus... They are compact small plants, 10-20 cm tall, flowering after 8-10 weeks and continuing to bloom for 2-3 months.

But this is only a perspective so far. The immediate commercial future for poultry is 50,000 export stems from Australia plus plants grown in Europe.