Pollen Storage for Bulbs

Millie Burrell amburrell@ag.tamu.edu
Mon, 08 Aug 2005 22:02:30 PDT
I noticed on the Lycoris, Crinum thread that there was a request for info on storing pollen.

1. For bulbs, DO NOT FREEZE the pollen.  With peaches and roses (the majority of my plant breeding experience), we always froze our pollen and it stayed viable for 2 or 3 years.  Sadly, with Zephyranthes, I learned a hard lesson about freezing pollen.  It kills it.  I did a control experiment in the fridge and it was happy.  The literature also advises not to freeze.  Of course, I read that AFTER putting my Z. katherinae (red)  pollen in the freezer.  The control experiment was with the ubiquitous H. robustus...

2.  Put your pollen into a labeled tube and refrigerate fairly soon after collection.  In some crops, you leave the anthers out to dry, so they will dehisce their pollen.  Members of the Amaryllidaceae, Liliaceae and Iridaceae (in my experience) prefer to dehisce their pollen in the fridge.  Leaving it out in a draftless room for 24 to 48 hours as you do with pollen of other crops renders the pollen less viable.  Or so I have experienced.

Storage:  Get an airtight container like Gladware and put a dessicant in the bottom of it.  A thin layer is fine.  Kitty litter is fine for a dessicant.

Then get individual plastic tubes (available at craft stores) usually 1.5 ml volume or .5 ml volume.  Just make sure you can close the lid on them.  Into these, you will insert your anthers.  It's best to pinch them off with tweezers and insert into the labeled tube.  Labels are essential if you want to make numerous crosses.  Clean your tweezers with alcohol when moving on to collect pollen from another species.  Wipe off the ethanol and harvest more anthers.

Place your pollen tubes in the container with the dessicant and it should remain viable for a year or two.

I hope this is informative and helpful.  This has been my most successful way to store pollen over the long haul.


Millie Burrell

Millie Burrell
Graduate Student
Department of Biology
Texas A&M University
Norman Borlaug Center
MS 2123
College Station, TX  77843-2123
(979) 845-2683

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