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1998 The Adventure Begins
Anatomy of Victoria Flowers
Since the primary goal of our 'adventure" was to make seeds, as beginners at pollinating Victoria (or anything else for that matter!), we read what we could find on the subject, which was precious little! Knowing we would have plenty of flowers to work with, we allowed the early 'Longwood Hybrid' and one cruziana to self-pollinate with no help from us, as we had done in previous years. When the largest amazonica began to bloom, we began to hand pollinate.
Our first attempt to emasculate the "mom" flower was "by the book" -- waiting for the first night cruziana flower to open at near dark, removing stamenoids and stamens one by one, accidentally dunking the flower in the water trying to push through the paracarpels, and drying it before we brought the amazonica pollen. After waiting until 10 p.m. for the second night amazonica flower to open fully to collect the pollen, we gently introduced the pollen (as instructed by the "experts"), [Myths & Misunderstandings] struggled to close and wrap the flowers in cheesecloth, couldn't get the rubber bands to stay on, and were exhausted. In spite of everything, the amazonica x self yielded l83 seeds and the cruziana x amazonica yielded 172. But there had to be a better, easier, earlier way!
Because we were at this point very unsure about how written, often conflicting, references to the flower parts related to variously labeled drawings and to the real thing, we decided the only safe way to emasculate was to remove everything and to do so before the first night flower opened. This actually proved to he quite easy! (This will not be illustrated in detail here since we found an even easier way to emasculate early in 1999. See The Ring Thing.)
A happy accident led us to discover that, even though the stamenoids of the second night 'dad" flower are still clamped down tight at 6 p.m., the pollen is already shedding from the anthers within and is fully viable! [Myths & Misunderstandings] No more tripping through the Victoria thorns in the dark! All pollinations can be accomplished in daylight.
Determined to make every possible cross, whether it had met with success in the past or not, we let the availability of flowers determine what we tried. They all produced seeds, and now plants. [Myths & Misunderstandings] Though the "rule book" said that, even in self-pollinating, second night pollen should be stored for the next first night flower, we never did it. [Myths & Misunderstandings] Knowing how well our previous Victorias had selfed on their own, we elected simply to cut the anthers into the cup on the second night. These second night selfs produced far more seeds than crosses to first night flowers, so we decided to try some crosses to second night flowers, emasculating the recipient the first night. These second night to second night crosses consistently produced far more seeds than the conventional second night to first night crosses. [Myths & Misunderstandings]
This dispelled the belief long held by many [Myths & Misunderstandings] that only the first night Victoria flower is receptive to pollination. This may be true in cooler growing areas but here, in a climate that more approximates the natural habitat, it is certainly not the case.
Having read that the flowers sometimes contained nectar (and having gotten water in them a few times by accident), we made some of the early pollinations swirling a little pond water in the stigma with the pollen, still wanting to be gentle with the stigmatic surface. This proved to be a mistake, yielding only partial pods. We actually did have nectar in one flower, left it there for the pollination and compared it to before-and-after flowers; the result was poor. Rain did not seem to affect seed set, as long as the stigma was kept dry during pollination and the flower was well "balled" and wrapped afterward.
We wanted to know if insects had any part in the seed set of flowers that we allowed to self with no help, and we often needed to protect flowers from accidental pollination by others while allowing them to open and to be enjoyed. Gauze picnic umbrellas (kept from sinking by attaching fishing floats to the corners) proved to be our answer. We found no evidence of insect participation in the pollination process.
We don't know for sure if, in self-pollination with no help from us, the pollen simply falls into the stigma as the anthers dehisce, if it is pushed there by the closing of stamenoids and petals, or if, as reported in one somewhat obscure reference, the flower gives itself a "perceptible jerk" before it closes. Though beetles seem to play a role in self and cross pollination of flowers in the Amazon, Walter Pagels and Butch Weaver report finding no beetles at all in or around cruziana flowers on their recent expedition to Argentina.
But the beetle participation in the Amazon brought about another leap in rule breaking. Those trapped beetles tear up the inside of the flower, so why are we gently using camel hair brushes to spread pollen onto the stigmatic surface? [Myths & Misunderstandings] Vigorous rubbing of the pollen into the stigma again improved seed set.
We tried storing some pollen, wrapped in tracing paper inside a ziplock bag, placed in the door of the refrigerator. Storage of 4 days produced 108 seeds and storage of 5 days produced 203, both pods on the same plant. We attempted 6 days, but the flower dunked itself between emasculation and pollination, wetting the stigma, and did not set. Techniques are being brainstormed for experiments this year in extending storage time beyond five days.
1998 The Adventure Begins
Anatomy of Victoria Flowers
1999 The Adventure Continues | 2000 A Very Bad Year | 2001 A Banner Year
2002 An Even Better Year | 2003 We Like It Like This | 2004 Trust
2005 Recovery | 2006 Normal? | 2007 Weird | 2008 Year of the Hare
2009 Year of the (White) Tortoise