What's the Madia with These Plants?

I grew quite a lot of Madia elegans - common madia - from seed I gathered about a mile from here - less as the crow flies. As a beginning propagator, I had no idea what would be easy or difficult to grow. Madia elegans has a high germination rate:

The seedlings have grown into plants of two types -

One is a regular looking common madia but tall and lanky. At least they are producing foliage of medium daintiness and pretty yellow daisy type flowers with chocolate brown centers, about an inch or inch and a half across. (Pics show flowers, then foliage) -

The other is a thuggish plant that looks more like Madia sativa, of which many grow around here - at least on my property. They are one of the things that are native here because they are native pretty much everywhere - Madia is like that:

The ones I planted in the south garden's "Experimental Bed One" also look like the thuggish variety, but they have been topped by deer at least once. None of the thugs is showing signs of flowering as yet:

But the seed definitely came from Madia elegans flowers! At least - well I suppose there could have been some other types of Madia mixed in that I didn't distinguish.

it must be said that the foliage of the Madia family is weedy looking at best. It is sticky and rough at worst. But I had thought Madia Elegans was more petite, with bigger flowers - and locally native, and a good wildlife plant. This morning we took Duncan for his walk past the location where I collected the seed. The only madia in evidence are TINY!

(Yes, gloves in middle of June! it's still cold here in Central California!)

So - are the thugs in the corner some hybrid? Are they how Madia elegans grows with rich soil? - The topsoil for a few inches deep anyway, was imported from a commercial source.

I did some Googling and here's another theory:
KERNER von MARILAUN's experiments illustrated the impact of environmental factors on the expression of certain phenotypes. A species may thus produce different phenotypes without changing its genotype.
. . . . .
Despite habitat-specific factors, seasonal factors, too, play an essential role in the selection of optimally adapted races. The Compositae Madia elegans grows throughout California flowering both in spring (March to May) and in autumn (from August on). Following the winter rains, plants flowering in spring develop rapidly. Their shoots remain small. Plants flowering in autumn develop an extensive root system as an adaptation to the dry soil, a dense rosette of leaves, and tall shoots. These features of the plants are stable even under standard experimental conditions.

So -- Maybe what's going on is a form of "the impact of environmental factors on the expression of certain phenotypes" - Could it be that the "madia on steroids" look like they do because they are growing next to the neighbor fence, with irrigated fruit trees just the other side? They are also in better soil. Whereas the ones in the pots have thinner nutrition and probably got stressed at some point -- and perhaps flipped into their fall bloom and growth mode. I'm totally just guessing here.

And maybe the tiny ones I saw today in the wild are so tiny because they are growing in poor soil over sandstone bedrock?

Then again, there are a lot of different kinds of madia growing around here. One kind is very petite, but with tiny flowers. And this morning I also noticed a volunteer in the pots that is very petite but with slightly larger flowers:

Well, I'm baffled. It will take some figuring out to arrive at a stable propagation protocol I guess, to get the medium size madia with larger flowers that I want to used to populate the open areas in the sunny chaparral areas that we partly cleared - where we need "good plants" there, locally native, to compete with the weeds!


luvarugula said…
liked your essay on the striking phenotypic variability. an interesting adaptation. i keep thinking, what are other plants that do this?
We seem to have two distinct species on our property here. The woodland madia (Anisocarpus madioides), and the coast tarweed (Madia sativa). You're lucky to have Madia elegans so near you. My passive observation here is that the M. sativa, the more thuggish of the two, definitely grows taller and more lush in the orchard where we have some irrigation and organic fertilizer, compared to the dry nutrient-devoid slopes near the bee hives. I've never noticed any difference in flower form based on food/water access with those two species though. I've also never propagated them, as they do that on their own too much as it is ;) I'll be curious to see how the rest of yours look as they come into bloom.
Sue Langley said…
Hi Mouse! I have Madia elegans, I believe, here in Central CA mountains at 3000ft. there is a photo here in this post of the kind we have here. It's blooming now, about two ft tall and slender, sticky leaves and very pretty in groups. It is along the roadsides as well, but still has the distoictive rust or brown portion to each petal near the center. http://wp.me/p10S9N-3Z

I so admire your propagation skills. I hope to try that as well someday!