more pollen collecting, pass if you find it boring

Joe Shaw
Fri, 01 Sep 2006 16:25:10 PDT
Hi Gang,

This has all been hashed out before, and I apologize if this is repitious 
for some.  I have prepared a list of considerations for collecting and 
storing pollen.  I didn't concentrate on a genus, or even on bulbs.

My hope is that some will read the list and find errors, or obvious 
improvements.  Or, perhaps some will be able to report that certain genera 
need certain treatments.  So, write to me, or the PBS, and help me fill in 
details or fix erroneus statements.

See the list below.



1.  Collect anthers when the pollen is shed.  The best sign is that the 
pollen dust will stick to  your finger.  Don't collect before the anthers 
open and naturally shed pollen.

2.  Often, pollen shedding will be the same day as "full" flower opening, 
but depending upon species it can be:
a.  the evening before,
b.  the evening of flower opening, or;
c.  the day after flower opening.

3.  I just collect anthers by hand because I mostly work with large flowers. 
Sometimes you might need forceps or you might need to half-way brutalize a 
flower to get a pollen (depending upon species).

4.  No matter fingers or forceps, it is important to wash your hands and/or 
the forceps between different types of flowers.

5.  I drop the anthers in a small paper envelope.  Sometimes a small seed 
envelope, or a coin envelope, or sometimes the corner of a regular-size 
letter envelope.  I avoid wax or plastic envelopes; my goal is to help the 
pollen to dry.

6.  I let the anthers (pollen) sit at room temperature (in an 
air-conditioned environment, or (if winter) in a heated environment.  I 
don't leave the pollen outside, or on a porch, or in a garage, etc.

7.  About 2 days after I collect the last pollen from an inflorescence, I 
put it in a Tupperware-type container with a drying agent.  The simplest 
drying agent is silica gel beads from a hobby shop.  I like the 
color-changing beads so I can determine if they are saturated with water 
(blue is good, pink is "full of water').  The idea is to pull water out from 
the pollen.  Many pollen types  (surely not all) store better if kept at low 

8.  Apparently many pollens can survive for months, or even a year, at room 
temperature, especially if kept in a plastic container over a drying agent. 
Of course, some pollens can survive a while without drying-that is why we 
can mail them to each other.

9.  Once placed over a drying agent I put the pollen envelopes in the 
freezer, just a regular modern frost-free freezer.  When I open the 
Tupperware box I make sure to quickly remove what I need and reseal the box. 
Later, if there is extra pollen, I put it back in the box after a day or two 
at room temperature.

10.  Some folks don't bother with drying agents.  Marcelle Sheppard just 
gathers Crinum pollen, and leaves it at room temperature for a day or two, 
and then freezes it in a plastic box (airtight is better).  She reports that 
such approach will store pollen for at least a year.

11.  If you want a low-tech solution, you could gather pollen and keep it 
indoors for weeks, often such an approach will work for many plants.  In 
fact, some pollens will last for months.  Factors that reduce viability 
include high humidity and vast temperature swings.  So, aim for dry and 
stable (and not too hot).

12.  If you get pollen in a swap (in the mail) it is important to get it 
indoors in a climate controlled room if you cannot use it immediately on 
flowers.  You can store it by any of the methods above.

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