How to pollinate your Paphs!

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Rick's consumer vs. producer post motivated me to start a new thread here that will hopefully help someone out there realize how easy this process is. This is actually a copy of a post I made at the Denver Orchid Society forum last spring if you've seen it before.

If I've left out any important details or made any major mistakes, I hope that you'll let us know!

In this example, I'm selfing a Paph fowliei.


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.

I suppose 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 arrow in the photo below points to one of them.


I usually begin by removing the pollen with a toothpick. On Paphs, 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 spit 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 below, the two sides of the pouch have been slit, but it is still hanging on.


And with the entire pouch removed, the stigma is revealed.


Now, pick up your toothpick again (with the pollen still attached) and stick the pollen onto the flat, bottom surface of the stigma.



From there, it's just a matter of waiting for the capsule to form. Once you've pollinated the plant, you should label the bud with the cross and the date, then, keep an eye on the ovary of the plant.


If the pollination has been successful, when the bloom begins to brown and wilt, it will not drop off of the plant usually - it will just stay on the ovary and dry out. Also, the ovary will start to swell. The swelling is not as pronounced in Paphs and Phrags as many other species. Phalaenopsis pods grow to be quite large; but Paphs may only double in size.

In the photos below, you can see a Paph fowliei pod that was pollinated a bit less than 4 months ago.


And the pod, closer up:


Again, pod development time varies according to species. Some take just a few months, some take about a year, I have been told.

So, I hope that some of you who have just been consumers in the past will decide to give it a try.

- Matt Gore
That's great Mathew. You can see all the parts clearly.

Typically I only cut a small window on the back of the pouch to get to the stigma. That way I can enjoy the flower longer.

I'm just guessing, but it may have benifits being less traumatic, and leaving more mass for readsorption (a total guess).

Right now I estimate my species pollination (mostly selfs) capsule formation rate at about 75%.
Matt, that's an excellent demonstration, and certainly something I'll have to try eventually (once I get enough flowers that I don't mind "wasting" one).

After the pod develops, how does one know that it's ready? And once you determine it's ready, then what?
Thanks everyone :)

Rick, I frequently do the same thing... I just use a razor to cut out a little access window in the back. I did this one with the express purpose of showing where things are, though, and it's pretty hard to take photos through the little window :)

Dot, I think I'll do that... thanks for the idea!


The issue of pod development is another issue :) There are two different ways to start the harvesting process: green pod, and dry pod.

If you're going to do it with the dry pod method, you just wait. Eventually, the pod will turn yellow and dry out, and crack open. When it appears that this is about to happen, many people wrap a paper filter (like a coffee filter) around the pod to make sure that no seed is lost. Then, once the pod cracks open, you drop it in the mail to a lab and they flask it for you :) Or you sterilize the seed and flask it yourself.

With the green pod method, you wait until the pod is mostly developed, then you cut if off, sterilize the outside of the seedpod, and then sow the seed. If the pod hasn't cracked open, the seed inside is sterile and doesn't need to be sterilized. The difficutly, of course, is knowing when to harvest the pod. Some species take a few months, some take over a year. There are some references on the subject out there, and a lot of conflicting opinions, as usual.

Anyway, both methods have their advantages and disadvantages. I'm still a novice myself, and I've had terrible luck with the dry pod method. I suspect that some of the more experienced members in here can give more complete information on this aspect.

- Matt
great tutorial ! I had made a similar one on one of the French orchid forums some time ago but I think the pictures in yours are far superior ! :rollhappy:

By the way, I guess there is no front, back, up or down for the pollen sag?
Just place the whole thing on the stigma in whatever orientation?

If it is just the pollen bundles (pollinia) orientation doesn't matter. Often the little stalk and cup structure that holds the pollinia is still attached though. Make sure the pollen itself is in direct contact with the stigmatic surface.

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