07 January 2017

Amuri Red Onions - unique reproductive strategy

I was given some bulbils of a very strange  variety of onion, 'Amuri Red'. It has what I think is a unique reproductive strategy - at least I haven't seen it reported before for onions. Instead of flowers, it develops small topset bulbils at the end of stalks. Some leeks will put out 'leek hair' if their flowerheads are damaged or stressed - they develop small bulbs instead of flowers, and the growing leaves of these bulbs form a fuzzy ball at the top of the flowering stem.
But Amuri is different - instead of flower heads, it develops fine stalks with a tiny bulb on the end of each stalk - like weird oniony dreadlocks.

Apart from being a pretty cool looking plant in the vegie garden, topsetting onions offer advantages to the lazy or less attentive gardener. Onions from seeds are slow to develop in their early stages, and can often be overwhelmed by weeds. The extra resources in a topset bulbil means the plants get a head start. Hover, most topsetting onions (also known as walking onions or Egyptian onions or perpetual onions or tree onions) only develop small bulbs, and have a somewhat limited range, at least in Australia. I've grown my variety for years - I can't even remember where I got them. Last year I was given a few different varieties by friends, and I'm currently doing a side-by-side growout of three varieties. By chance, a couple of lines of seedlings that came out the Greeen Mountain potato onion seeds I got developed topset bulbils, triggering my interest in finding the best ones. some are perpetual, never quite dieing off, and remaining green throughout the year. Others die back to smallish bulbs after setting their topset bulbils. All only develop small basal bulbs. A few occasionally set fertile flowers, but this is rare. The colour range is brown and pink, but I think some of the Green Mountains will be white. I'm hoping these Amuri Reds will prove useful, and add to the varieties available for home gardeners - with luck, we will get a big bulbing, red onion with good storage life.

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