Storing pollen

mike4284m(z10b Ft. Lauderdale, FL)April 23, 2007

I have a couple neos that are flowering/about to flower and I was thinking of freezing some of the pollen to use later on. I was going to put the pollen in small glass vials and just plop them in the freezer. Does that sound alright?

I could go for overkill and sneak them in the -70C freezer here at work ;)

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If the glass is freezer-safe it should be fine. I usually put pollen in foil packets for freezing, for several reasons: a) I have plenty of foil, b) it doesn't take up much space and is easy to label, c) you can divide your pollen into several small packets so that you don't have to defrost the whole batch at once. If none of those things is an issue, then use the vials if you have them. Do you work for a pharmaceutical company or something?

The main thing is that it stays frozen, because once it thaws out you have to use it right then. I don't think that refreezing it or even refrigerating it after that would keep it viable, but then I've never tried it so I can't say for sure.

I also don't know if there would be an advantage to going super-cryogenic or not. Maybe so. Why don't you try it and let us know 20 years from now if it's still good!

For practical reasons, though, I would keep it near where your plants are so you can just pop it right out of the freezer and use it immediately. Neos, Billbergias and most other broms are receptive in mid morning, so factor that into the equation. I generally do my pollinating between 9:00 and 10:00 AM, unless it's one of the foliage-type Vrieseas that open at night.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 3:07PM
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mike4284m(z10b Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

Thanks Lisa! You're very close . . I work for a pharmacy school.

I assumed re-freezing would probably be a no no. How long have you stored pollen for and still found it to be viable? Any guesses on how long it may last in a freezer?

I would love to see some of the doctors faces if they pulled a vial out of the liquid nitrogen that read "Neo. 'Little Faith'"

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 3:26PM
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bambi_too(5 Ohio)

Actually If the pollen is DRY, it can be thawed, used, and the rest refrozen. It only takes a few minutes to thaw if your using a normal household freezer, and it only takes a few minutes for it to refreeze. The key is it needs to be dry. I use plastic 1.5 ml Microcentrifuge Tubes. They are really cheap, you can get about 100 on e-bay from the seller Earthstar for about $6.00. I use a lot of them. I don't know how long you can store bromeliad pollen, but I have used daylily pollen that was 3 years old with good results. It was BTW in and out of the freezer quite a few times over that period. I don't know if bromeliad pollen will last that long, but it might.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 3:41PM
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Bambi, how wide are those tubes? How do you get the pollen in them or out of them? I'm assuming you remove the pollen from the anther, but then a daylily anther is quite a bit bigger than a Neo anther, isn't it?

When I'm storing short-term in the fridge I just pluck off the entire anther and store a bunch of them in a plastic film can, which I can then pull out, use what I need, and put back in the fridge. If I'm freezing it then I'll scrape the pollen off the anther, which is easier to do with the foil, and that does help keep it drier. I've found, though, that the act of defrosting sometimes causes a little bit of condensation on the foil. Not enough to hurt it's viability right then, but I wouldn't want to try to refreeze it. I don't know, maybe it would be okay, but it's just a gut feeling, like not refreezing food once it thaws out.

I've never experimented with that though, and never really kept good notes on which ones I used refrigerated or frozen pollen on, or how old it was. I know I've had some freezer babies but I've never tried using pollen that was over a year old. I'll only do it if I have a winter blooming variety that I want to cross with a summer blooming one, or vice versa, and then after that, out it goes.

Don Beadle is the one who told me that it could go a couple of months in the fridge and a couple of years in the freezer. He worked exclusively with Billbergias, which have the advantage of having yellow or orange pollen, so it's easy to tell when it goes bad because it starts to turn white. Same with Vriesea pollen. Neos have white pollen so there's no visual cue, but I've done enough with Billbergias and Vrieseas to know how long they last, and I figure the shelf life is going to be about the same for the Neos, so I toss it out after a couple of months in the fridge.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 8:11PM
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bambi_too(5 Ohio)

A picture is worth a thousand words. I have just scraped the pollen off and frozen the anther.

LOL!!!! it is harder to freeze Bromeliad pollen!!!

The tubes are not very big as you can see, they have a hinged cap, I tap the pollen into the cap and use it from there, a flat toothpick works well for pollinating, they are cheap, and pollen will stick to them.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 9:50PM
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Ahhh...... I see. I was thinking the tubes were more like pipettes. Those look very handy. I can see how the toothpick would be good for some genera. I have a nifty scraping dental tool that I use for pollinating gingers, but it doesn't work so well on bromeliads, especially the Neos.

The trouble is that Neo. stamens don't give you a nice handle to hang onto while you scrape the pollen off, which is why it's easier to just pluck the whole anther and store it. Then when I pollinate I grab up one or more of them with the tweezers and jam them down into the throat and just hope that something makes contact. It's hard to see, so it's kind of hit-or-miss. It's so much easier on genera that have brightly colored pollen and long pistils waving in the breeze where you can see them!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 3:07AM
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bambi_too(5 Ohio)

Lisa, your not kidding! I have to use my Bifocals when I'm pollinating. I may purchase a pair of high powered reading glasses, just for the purpose.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 7:49AM
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kool i am bidding on one of these right now cant wait for it to arrive if i win.

it would come in realy handy since none of my broms flower at the same time. or near each other.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2008 at 5:59AM
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bromeliaddict(z6 MI)

A timely post! I had a couple of questions about storing pollen- ('fridge or freezer)- and found all my answers here. I've got B. 'Domingos Martins' and B. rosea coming into bloom soon, but I don't think that they're quite going to overlap. I'll post if I have success!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2008 at 12:23PM
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Great minds think alike, Paul! DM and rosea are the two that I always kept in the freezer when I was working with Bills. I never bothered with any of the others, but those two are worth keeping on hand.

Never crossed the two of them, but this year rosea and Pipeline came into bloom on the same day! That was enough to jostle me out of Neo mode long enough to make that one cross. I haven't done any Bills in a while but I think that combination is going to be a winner!

Hopefully your rosea will bloom first. It's a hardcore selfer, and I've never had any luck putting outside pollen on it. I've got a couple of nice crosses using it as pollen parent, though. One warning: they will get huge!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2008 at 2:09PM
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bambi_too(5 Ohio)

I have gone to freezing individual Neo stamens in wax paper which are then stored in labeled 2 x 3 inch ziploc bags. That way I can pull one out thaw it and use it. I have also found that a lot of the pollen ends up in the botton crease of the wax paper and is easy to use with a small paint brush.

I have not been able to get any Bill seed at all. When is the best time to pollinate them? I have tried newly opened blooms and older ones. Maybe it is the species and cultivars I am using.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 11:21PM
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Bambi too with me the bills are hit or miss. I haven't found a good time on them yet. 90% of mine bloom in winter, maybe to wet. And now its to dry, worst drought here in 50+ years. Humidity has been around 30% and thats low here.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 11:53PM
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bambi_too(5 Ohio)

I've tried new flowers, old flowers, early morning, afternoon, evening pollinations and got nothing. I even tried selfing some. I believe most of the plants I am using are fertile too.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 8:29AM
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Hi everyone,

Bambi, you are having the same problems as I do. From what I've read from past posts on these forums, Bill's are supposed to be one of the easiest of all brom's to pollinate, but I've tried all times of the day (not night) without any success.

Bill. Hallelujah which grows well for me and I know is used by many others for breeding won't give me any seeds either.

All I have tried with seem to have taken at first, the capsule starts to swell and after about 3-5 weeks they always abort.

So when you find out what we're doing wrong, please let me know.

All the best, Nev.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 5:02PM
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