Oca: A budding interest soon to bear fruit?

Five-leafed oca

While performing my morning walk through the oca (Oxalis tuberosa) and potato rows, vigilant for signs of pests and disease while blinking the sleep from my eyes, I spotted an unusual oca leaf that tuned my senses.  Is a five-leafed oca as lucky as a four-leafed clover?  While I haven’t studied the matter rigorously, based on follow-on events, I suspect that the answer is yes.  While searching for more unusual oca features, I spotted something unexpected at this time of year: flower buds.  Oca tends to flower fairly late in the season for most people.  June is pretty early, although not unheard of.

I noticed that the stems of this Bolivian Red oca plant were starting to lean and, when I took a closer look, there were flower buds.  This was both exciting and unfortunate, as I saw no other flower buds.  Oca is a nearly obligate out-breeder.  Only one flower form is capable of some limited self-pollination.

Flower buds on Bolivian Red oca plant

I don’t yet know the flower forms of any of the plants that I am growing, but the best case scenario with a single plant is that it has a mid-styled flower which has a low probability of self-pollination.  Ideally, I would hope to find multiple plants of different varieties flowering at the same time and to further discover that those varieties bear different flower types.  With my morning auto-pilot turned off, I took another, more attentive, wander through the oca beds and was delighted to find buds on a second plant.

The second plant is a different variety: Sunset.  So, this is great news, because it means that there is a very good chance that these plants can pollinate each other.   These plants aren’t very close to each other, so I will probably hand pollinate if everything works out.  It would be great to get a cross done this early, as the pods would mature while it is still pretty dry.
Anyway, I’ll try not to get my hopes up too much, as nature can throw a lot of curves.  These plants could drop their buds tomorrow.  But the possibility of an early season cross is pretty exciting for this budding oca breeder.
Flower buds on Sunset oca plant

As a side note, neither one of these oca plants is in my seed bed, which is good for a laugh.  These plants are in the neglected rows where we planted all the “extra” oca of common varieties, rather than the carefully plotted and managed oca resort, where I let the plants lounge in comfort while I feed them grapes.

Update: A more careful examination later in the day revealed two more plants with buds.  I also started to notice projections from the leaf axils and realized that a lot of plants are in the process of budding.  It amounts to several dozen plants of the Hopin and Sunset varieties, so there is going to be a lot of oca flowering in our near future.

Oca seeds and tubers are sometimes available in our seed shop.

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