Quetion of Tillandsia pollination

junpherzApril 29, 2009

Hey Everyone,Though I have tried to search the question through the internet for times, ha' failed to reach to a wanted result as yet..

Thereafter,I pop this question here:

How do the Tillandsia pollinate?---Do they self-pollinate?Will all Tillandsia or only a part of species do self-polinate .??---if so, should it self-pollinate in one,the same bract sepal?? or have to be crossed with another bract sepal in this mother plant on the same inflorescent?----If not, may it need ,at least 2 plants, to fruit the vigorous SEEDS then?

For instance, a T.ionantha which doesn't flower much at one time,probably flowers ONLY One Bract each day...The thing is you can't seem to have another flower at the same time in the same plant(you don't have any "stored powder " as well).....my question(No.1) is :Can I use the "powder" to fertilize the "pistil" all on one bract?? and if it fruits,will the seed germinate successfully with good result(pretext : sow in good conditon)??

Question No.2: If a Tillandsia Ionantha this time has 2 flowers (Bracts) blossom at the same time,Can I cross these 2 flowers with a brush to fertilize each other on the same mother plant?? Am I receiving a good result of seed germination if provided good conditions as well.

I prefer pure-bred sp. but I have very limited plants that most of them only one of each species in stuck here....that's why I ask a question like this. I long for propagating my plants and don't want to waste the resource of time and of plants when they get to blooming period.Here,I would like to "SOS" all of your experienced guys.

Additionally,Do you know what the best way to get Vigorous and Energitic Seeds is??Does it ,the way to pollinate plants vary from different species,likewise??

Any answer will be much appreciated .

Thanks in advance.


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Those are good questions, Ralph, and you are not likely to find the answers on the internet. The only way to find out is to either find an experienced Tillandsia hybridizer and ask them about each of the species you are interested in, or..... try it yourself! I recommend the second one. Personal experience is the best teacher!

I have worked with a lot of other genera but not Tillandsias (too slow!). However, just based on casual observation, it seems that some Tills set seed much more easily than others. This indicates to me that some species are probably self-pollinators while other species are not. As with other bromeliad genera, there seem to be different degrees of self-compatibility. For example, T. polystachia will set seed every time it blooms without any help from me, so I would definitely put that into the strong "selfer" group. Other species seem to require some pollination help but are still self-compatible. My one and only attempt to grow Tillandsia seeds was with T. jalisco-monticola, which doesn't usually set seed on its own, but I had no trouble getting it to accept its own pollen. I have seen seed pods forming on T. ionantha enough times to think it may be self-compatible too, but I have never tested it out. On the other hand, I have made several attempts to pollinate T. cyanea with no luck. I don't know if that means it is not self-compatible, or if it is just a matter of all of the floral parts being hidden down inside the bract where they are difficult to get to. A friend of mine told me he had acheived some success getting seed on cyanea by sticking a long cat's whisker down into the flower, but I don't know if he was using two diffent clones of the species or just selfing it. Perhaps Gonzer or one of the other Tillandsia growers can tell you more about which species will self-pollinate.

My understanding of self-compatibility or incompatibility is that it doesn't make any difference if the pollen is from the same flower, another flower on the same plant, or another flower on another plant of the same clone (a pup or division from the same original source). They would all be considered "self". Some others here may argue with this, I know we've had this discussion here before with one of our members claiming that in some other plant families pollinating a flower with a different flower in the same clump can result in pollination where pollen from the same flower wouldn't. This makes no sense to me, as they should all be genetically identical. My understanding is that if you have a species that requires outside pollination, you need to use a different clone. This doesn't have to be a different species, it can be a different cultivar of the same species, or even two seedlings of the same cv. from the same parent plants, as long as it's not a vegetative division from the same source as the one you're trying to pollinate. Sometimes it's hard to know if you've got one clone or two. Even getting plant material from several different people may not help if they all came from the same original specimen.

Before you start worrying about all of this, though, I suggest you try self-pollinating your plants. Tillandsia seeds can take up to a year to set up (and up to 8 years to grow to maturity!), but you should know within a month or two if your plant is setting seed, and from that you'll know whether that species is self-compatible or not.

Good luck, I hope you have a lot of patience! ;-)

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 2:39PM
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Ralph, although I've grown Tillandsias for upwards of 30+ years I always rely on the self seeding or hummingbird pollinated plants. The stigmas are too far recessed for me to get down in there and do the dirty deed. I would strongly suggest contacting Derek Butcher and/or the Bromeliad Taxonomists and Growers Discussion Board (found on the web). Here's Derek's e-mail: UncleDerekSays@fcbs.org
..and Andrew Flower's: andrew@anwyl.com

Here is a link that might be useful: Brom growers discussion board

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 6:57PM
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I agree with Lisa and to just try it. I've been watching some tricolor seed pods that I tried some self pollination and cross pollination on over 10 months ago (and it's killing me waiting for them to ripen!). But they are starting to darken, so I'm hopefully going to start playing with them within a month. About 75% of the ones I tried to pollinate on that plant are setting seed. I've tried several others, mostly self-pollination, and am having very mixed results. I haven't been overly careful in making notes of what time of day, temperature, etc...or even labeling what flowers I tried for that matter (I know, its a bad idea). But I am proceeding very passively (for my sanity).

I have recently tried some more tillandsias that have the pistils and stamens that are recessed deep in the flower and it is pretty tricky. But usually if the pollen clearly sticks to the tip of the pistil I assume everything is as close as possible to working.

Good luck and let us know how it goes! Maybe I'll start taking notes now that I have more types that are blooming and might actually take care to plan out stuff.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 11:22PM
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To Lisa:
Yep! Your answer is awesome and it's instructive to me.
I do not have them flowered as yet,if they did,I would be too late to ACT then!.
Propagating my T.eizii and T.thrysigera and T.prodigosa is what I wanted, which now have not reached their maturity by far .Merely one of each sp I have that makes it difficult to get another,weather from same "origine" or not at the time when they flower.and also this is the initial baffle of mine.
Anyway Thanks for your advice and I'll try its self-compatibility if I get no more same sp. then.

To Gonzer:
Thank You,I have e-mailed these two authentic growers ,and am waiting for their answer.From your experience with self-pollination,it doesn't seem to be any problems though.

To Sdandy:
Hope you could get good results on your seeding.and Yeah,do take attention to 'note' your works and share them with us afterwards.
But mine,still have to be waiting probably a long period...I 'll try to get fast-growers to do this.


    Bookmark   May 1, 2009 at 10:41PM
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