Pollinating the Bloom
Hopefully, these photos and brief instuctions will take any confusion out of the process. The only skills that are required are a little bit of patience and a moderately steady hand.
The materials required are:
1 Blooming Plant (though two are better).
1 toothpick or similar instrument
1 sterile blade
The plant pictured (left) is a Paphiopedilum fowliei species. The pouch on this bloom was disfigured, and I was going to just cut it off, but this seems like a better use of it. Even though I'm only using one flower here, the process would be the same if two were used.
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The first thing to do is to locate the important parts of the bloom, starting with the pollen. The fertile anthers (pollen) can be found on either side of the staminode. The red arrow in the photo (right) points to one of them.
These little pollen capsules are loosely attached to the plant and are partially coated with a sticky substance. In nature, the pollen would stick to the back of insects as they escape from the pouch. We will also make use of the sticky substance in order to remove the pollen.
I usually begin by removing the pollen with a toothpick. On Paphs
, as I've mentioned, they are sticky and will stick to the end of the toothpick with little difficulty. Phrags, on the other hand, aren't so sticky (in my experience). I've heard that some people use honey, others use a little saliva to help stick the pollen to the toothpick and then to the stigma.
Removal of the pollen can be done later, but I like to do it first; this way, if I'm sloppy and drop the pollen, there's a good chance that it will fall into the pouch, and I won't lose it!
Once the pollen has been removed, the end of the stigma has to be exposed. In slippers, this usually means that the pouch is cut off (though in some cases, I simply cut a hole in the bottom of the pouch for access). This can be done easily with a sterile blade. In the photo to the left, the two sides of the pouch have been slit, but it is still hanging on.