Ralph asks a question about a strange early-blooming Jamaican Sorrel:
“I have been growing these for several years now and saving seeds.
I planted around mid-march this year and just got a surprise….1 of the plants is already flowering and setting calyxes. Just 1 of the 8 plants. It is only a couple feet tall. I don’t know if this is good or bad. Do you think it will continue till fall? Never had blooms until very late summer. Zone 8b.”
This question comes from the comment section of this post on Jamaican Sorrel/Florida Cranberry.
My Take on Ralph’s Early-Blooming Sorrel
My guess is that Ralph’s early blooming plant is a mutation. Generally, Jamaican sorrel doesn’t bloom until fall. It’s a day-length sensitive plant. Here, one farmer told me he plants his late so they’re short when they go into bloom, instead of the big sprawling plants you get when you plant in spring. He wants them big enough to give him a decent harvest, but not so big their weak stems get damaged by wind.
If you plant sorrel seeds in say, September/October in the South, they’ll start blooming at only a foot or so tall as the daylengths change. If you plant them in March, you get nice, big shrubs which are large enough to use for hedges – and they’ll bloom at the same time as the ones you just planted in Sept/Oct.
My guess is that this is a genetic sport. It may be caused by environmental conditions, though the chances seem lower to me due to his other plants acting normal. Generally, the growth of leaves and plant size slows when they go into bloom, so I’m not sure if this plant is going to keep getting bigger – or just make a round of blooms and give up.
Save the Seeds: Here’s Why
This short season/quick blooming thing may not be great for the south, but it would allow northerners to grow some Jamaican sorrel in a shorter season. Personally, I would save all the seeds it creates before the other plants start blooming and plant them out again. See if you can grow them in isolation from other blooming sorrel plants and see which plants carry the early-blooming gene. It may be a type that has no day-length sensitivity, which could be quite a valuable trait.
If you want to make some money, grow them until it’s stable, then patent the seed and get it distributed.
Or, if you’re feeling more altruistic, grow them and then give the variety to an organization like Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.
The early blooming could allow this normally tropical vegetable to move as far north as Canada. Great find – now you need to figure out if it’s going to stick across generations and if it will be productive enough to be worthwhile.