Don't microwave the alfoil!

paul_t23(Coastal Sydney)April 25, 2009

Hi everyone, aren't I a silly boy!

I've got this bee in my bonnet about trying to cross Billbergia Domingos Martins with a dark-banded Aechmea chantinii, hoping to keep the dark, banded, spotty thing going but with an even more spectacular, long-lasting flower spike.

Ingredient 1: Got the DM pollen a month or so back, stored in the fridge in small aluminium foil sachets with silica gel to keep it dry, following comments by someone in this forum. Ingredient 2: chantinii flowers started to open each morning a couple of days ago. Ingredient 3: dug out the GW thread I read some time ago about microwaving pollen from a related plant and putting it on the stigma to break down resistance to pollen it would normally reject (see link below). Ingredient 4: found a plant in flower that was reasonably closely related to chantinii (an Aech. flavorosea round at a mates place) and collected its pollen for microwaving, to be put onto the chantinii along with the hopefully live DM pollen.

So, flushed with imminent success and running out of time to get the pollination done in the ideal time in the morning, I rushed home with the flavorosea pollen, whacked it into the microwave and turned around to make a well-earned cup of coffee... FIZZLE POP BANG BANG POP BANG FLASH FLASH BANG... You guessed it - I was so pleased with my little foil sachets of pollen and myself in general that I forgot completely about what happens when you put alfoil in a microwave. Don't do it! It's one flash and you're ash baby!

Luckily I had some more pollen, which I was able to microwave on toothpicks after scraping it off the alfoil - not nearly as spectacular, but hopefully effective.

Who knows if this will work, but it'll be fun trying!

Parent plants are below. I'll be sure to give an update if anything happens.

The chantinii

The DM

Combining the two, how about a tall, elegant vase-shaped plant, dark with lots of spots and stripes, plus a tall, long-lasting flower spike with lots of flowers from the chantinii, the more open flower arrangement and irridescent colours from the DM and the big, brilliantly coloured bracts from both!

Ha! - dream on Paul. If I end up with anything, then Murphy's Law says it will probably be something small and brown that dangles under the bench, but hey, ya never know.

Cheers, Paul

Here is a link that might be useful: Microwaving pollen

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LOL, Paul. You are probably pretty close to the mark about the offspring of such a cross bearing the worst traits of both parents rather than the ones you were going for, but if you don't stop microwaving your pollen (with or without foil) you won't be getting any traits at all!

I suggest you go back and read that link thread one more time. I haven't read the article that Japie was referring to, but if I understand his comments correctly, what it was talking about was getting a plant to SELF-POLLINATE that ordinarily would not do so. Certain species are known to be self-incompatible, in other words, they are "programmed" not to recognize or accept their own pollen, only outside pollen will trigger their receptivity. In such a scenario, it was suggested that adding outside pollen to the mix might help to make the flower more receptive, but in order to make sure that alien pollen doesn't actually pollinate the plant, you should microwave it first-- TO KILL IT! This is similar to the reasoning behind giving vaccinations using a killed virus: the body recognizes the virus and launches an immune attack, but you don't want to run the risk of actually infecting the patient so you kill the virus first.

This would be all very well and good if you were trying to get your chantinii to self, but if you want it to cross with anything else, you'd better apply the pollen directly without nuking it! ;-)

    Bookmark   April 25, 2009 at 1:28PM
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Hi Paul - Been there, done that (with the microwave that is).

As for your experiment with the D.M. and the Chiantinii -"You've got to be in it to win it" - Good Luck!

Also, do you grow and flower your Chantinii in a shade house or a glass house, heated or unheated.

I went cold on the idea of getting one when I was told they wouldn't do any good in my area as it wasn't warm enough, but I don't think my climate would be very different to yours as I'm coastal as well and only about 20 minutes south of Wollongong; really just down the road from you.

All the best, Nev.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2009 at 5:34PM
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paul_t23(Coastal Sydney)

Hi Lisa, thanks for your comments. I hope you got a laugh - I sure did.

Sorry about my explanantion of what I did - looking back over it, I didn't make it very clear! I was actually putting two lots of pollen onto each chantinii stigma - the nuked (and hopefully dead) flavorosea pollen, plus the un-nuked (and hopefully still live) DM pollen, to see if I can get the DM pollen to take.

Of course, this assumes that the nuked flavorosea pollen has been successfully killed, so test this, I've set up a little control experiment by putting just this nuked pollen on some flowers at the same time as I do the combined nuked flavorosea plus live DM. If the nuked flavorosea pollen by itself is successful, then at least I'll know early on to treat any results with the DM pollen as highly suspect!

Your explanation of the purpose of nuking the pollen is absolutely spot-on, including the focus on selfing, and there isn't anything more to go by in the original article. I'm just wondering, if the nuked pollen could increase the receptivity of the stigma to selfing by triggering an acceptance response, then maybe (and of course its a big maybe), it could also increase receptivity to other pollen to which it would not normally be receptive?

Sorry again about my confusing original explanation. Cheers, Paul

    Bookmark   April 25, 2009 at 5:40PM
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paul_t23(Coastal Sydney)

Hi Nev,

I shared your concern about how chantinii would survive the winters down here, but when I discovered eBay 18 months ago, I just couldn't resist the stripes and got a couple anyway. So did a so did a similarly brom-mad mate of mine in nearby Bundeena.

From a combined total of five different chantinii clones going through last winter, two of them had a little bit of die-back on the tips of just a couple of leaves, otherwise all OK, just with growth virtually stopped for a couple of months mid-winter. Over the 18 month period, the plants have probably tripled in size, three have flowered and two have pups well on the way, while the rest are heading in the same direction.

We both grow them in shadehouses with fibreglass or polycarb roof and shadecloth sides, so they are in bright light and protected, but exposed to ambient air temps which get down to winter night-time minimums of around 6 deg C on the coldest nights. Other spots nearby can get a lot colder than this, so finding a bit of microclimate that stays a bit warm is probably a key. It might be worth getting a few max-min thermometers from Bunnings (they aren't very expensive these days) and putting them in different places in your setup to see what differences in temperature you get. That's what Ive been doing for quite a few years, and its amazing just how much consistent difference you can get between spots that are quite close together.

The other thing we noticed was that both of the plants that suffered the bit of leaf-tip die-back did so when they were in places that probably had much less air movement. When they were moved into nearby places with a lot of air movement, the die-back stopped. This may have been coincidence, but then again maybe not, so I suspect that very good air movement may be another key to survival, especially if the plants are already under temperature stress.

The other factor worth noting is probably potting mix. All of them were potted in 10-20mm composted pine bark that had been sieved to get rid of finer material so it doesn't stay wet. Then just treated the same as everything else, with watering once or twice a week through winter except no watering if its cold and wet, plus a good splash of half-strength liquid fertiliser (Phostrogen) every few weeks. No point in adding nutrient stress to the equation either, even if growth rate is minimal. Who knows what trace elements they still need, even if they aren't using much of the N, P or K.

This treatment has been quite deliberately and specifically designed based on quite a few years of experience growing some tropical native epiphytic orchids down here, and it seems to have worked so far, so I thought it worth explaining in a bit of detail. Hope it helps. They are such stunning plants it would be a shame not to have at least a couple!

Cheers, Paul

    Bookmark   April 25, 2009 at 6:58PM
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Ahhhh..... okay, I get what you're trying to do now, Paul. Sorry for assuming you were an even sillier boy! ;-)

I don't know if the nuked flavorosea pollen will do any more to trigger receptivity than the D-M pollen itself, since the issues of bigeneric incompatibilities are different from those of self-incompatibility. You're in uncharted territory here, but then the whole business is pretty hypothetical if you ask me. You might try one with just the Bill, and then compare your results. Ae. chantinii is usually a pretty good seed parent, so it may not need the extra encouragement. I've managed to successfully pollinate it with a Canistrum and a Neo, and I know it's been crossed with Hoh. correia-araujoi too. I don't know if anyone's tried a Bill, but it could work.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2009 at 12:33AM
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Thanks Paul, that's good information on the chantinii's cold sensitivity. I've always been too much of a wimp to try one. I'm inland here enough that I'm kind of borderline. Maybe I'll have to give one a shot now.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2009 at 12:54AM
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paul_t23(Coastal Sydney)

Hi Andy, hope you have some success. I can't grow them to the levels of perfection you could get in a well-managed heated greenhouse, but they're not too bad - definitely worth trying.

Lisa, thanks, but no need to be sorry - you may have been right the first time! (chuckle chuckle) I'll definitely follow up your suggestion and use the rest of my DM pollen by itself.

Having thought this through a bit more, and going back to your original comments, I may have actually done precisely the wrong thing by using the nuked flavorosea pollen, because if that original microwaving article applies here, it may have made the chantinii receptive to self-pollination - which is just what I didn't want! I was carefull not to get any of its own pollen on the stigmas, but .... Ah well. See - silly boy again! I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

I'll let you know if anything happens, and thanks again for your comments - much appreciated. Cheers, Paul

    Bookmark   April 26, 2009 at 5:02AM
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Hi everyone - Paul, thanks for starting off a very interesting and informative discussion.

It's very true that the further you look into brom growing the more you find you don't know, but wow! what an interesting learning curve it is.

All the best, Nev.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2009 at 3:24PM
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