how to manually pollinate citrus

lycheeluva(6/7)December 19, 2007

I'm new to this- can someone explain to me how to manually pollinate citrus blooms.

I think I get the basic concept- you use a soft brush to transfer pollen from one blossom to another but I'm not sure which part of the bloom I harvest the pollen from and which part of the bloom I then deposit the pollen on. I assumed that the pollen is contained within the tiny amber sacks at the end of the white spikes. I tried gently rubbing a paint brush against the amber sack on one bloom and then rubbing it against an amber sack of a second bloom. Is this correct? Does it matter if some of the white spikes fell off the flower as I was doing this. Should I be concerned that I did not see any pollen coming off the flower onto the paintbrush?

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I only hand pollinate when the trees are in the greehouse where bees and bugs are not welcome. I use either a song bird (small) feather or a cheap small paint brush like you find in a child's paint kit or at the local drug store. I start at the top and work each flower. I try to do this once or twice a week until the blooms are gone. I always have a ton of calamondins and last year my 2 y/o Ponderosa lemon had about 50 lbs of lemons (18 fruits).

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 11:45PM
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The poster did not really answer my question- which is, is the way I described how I am manually pollinating, the correct way to manually pollinate?

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 7:55AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

The pollen grains, located in the amber sacks (called the anthers) need to be transfered to the sticky yellow surface of the stigma, which is at the top of the larger column in the middle of the flower. (Surrounded by the anthers.)

The male part of the flower consists of those little anthers and the long slender filament....together they are called the stamen. The sperm is encapsulated within the pollen grains. The female portion of the flower is comprised of the stigmatic surface, the style (or pollen tube), and the ovary....collectively called the pistil. The eggs are located within the ovary.

Successful transfer of pollen will require that the anther be 'ripe' with mature pollen and that the stigma is receptive at the same time. You should see yellow pollen on the brush when you do your transfer.

Transferring pollen from one anther to anther to another won't accomplish much. ;-)

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 1:13PM
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thanks rhizo- very helpful.
it doesnt mater if some of the anthers fall off as I harvest them for pollen right?

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 3:12PM
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LycheeLuva, I am so sorry I disappointed you by failing to be more specific. I have a minor in biology and often bore people with too many botanical details. They look at me with glazed stares. So, here goes nothing. Bear with me. Refer to your pix. Those little white thingies with yellow stuff on them inside the white petals (petals are the outer most thingies)are pollen bearing anthers. The larger greenish thingie with the yellow thingies which are in the middle of the bloom is the pistil (stigma and style). You see the big problem is not identifying the parts of the flower but deciding when the pollen is ripe and can travel down the style to fertilize the ovary. You pretty much have to be an expert to determine when the pollen on a particular flower is ripe. Pollen will come off the anthers but may not be mature and viable. That is how we get back to my original posting. I use the SHOTGUN method of hand pollinating. Rather than inspect every flower for maturity, I just touch each flower to gather pollen and brush against the sticky stigma to transfer the pollen to the female parts. The good news is the stickiness of the stigma stays on the feather or brush and helps hold the pollen as I transfer it from flower to flower. The mature or ripe pollen will move down the style to the ovary after being rubbed on the stigma. The mystery is collecting RIPE pollen at the right time. I hope this helps. If you need additional specific info I may be able to pull down one of my 37 year old college botany books from the attic. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. - Terry

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 7:22PM
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Thanks Terry.
Hope I didn't upset you when I said your earlier post didnt help me. Certainly didnt mean to offend. Just wanted more information.

In any event- between you & Rhizo, I now understand.

By the way, the picture I uploaded, was not of my citrus. i just uploaded a stock citrus foto from the net.

Unfortunately, even though I have a 12 mega pixel camera, i cant take close up shots of plants or bugs- if i move my camera too close, the picture gets blurry and if i am more than a few inches away, i dont get much detail.

does that mean that no matter how many mega pixels the camera is, you cant take quality close-ups with a point and shoot? i guess that is the subject for a camera forum not for the citrus forum- but if someone knows the answer- id sure appreciate hearing it.

anyway to get back to citrus, when I rub the pollen sacs, i dont seem to be able to remove any of the pollen on to my brush. The sacks do not seem to have moveable pollen on them. Is that because the pollen is really small and I can't see it? or perhaps, If I dont see any pollen coming off the sacks onto the brush, could that mean, that there isnt any removeable pollen because this species is self-fertile?

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 10:49PM
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Lychee -- check your camera manual -- many point and shoots have a "macro" setting. At least on Canon and Olymus models, it looks like a little diagram of a tulip. Once that is switched on, you can get much closer and still focus. But every lens has its own limit on how close it can get. Megapixels of the camera has no effect on that. Some models can use an optional macro (or close-up) lens which screws onto the front of the built-in lens.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2007 at 8:29AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Self-fertile means that a plant is 'programmed' to fertilize itself. In other words, the sperm located within the pollen grains will fertilize the eggs located within the pistil of the same flower (or plant). Citrus are self fertile, which simply means that you do not need several plants in proximity to each other for pollen swapping.

Some plants are self-unfertile or self-sterile. Many different kinds of fruit trees fall into these categories. When pollen grains come into contact with the stigmatic surface of the same flower (or same tree) chemicals and hormones recognize it (chemically) and the pollen germination process is not allowed to happen. However, when pollen grains from a different pollinizer lands on the stigma, pollen germination occurs, allowing for the release of two sperm cells, one of which forms the sperm tube, allowing the other to be available for the fertilization of the egg.

Apples are an example of a fruit bearing tree which requires cross pollination. Orchardists will plant good pollinizers among the rows of their preferred apple variety in order to get the job done. Homeowners, too, should plant a suitable pollinizer along with that favorite apple variety.

Pollen grains are absolutely visible. I suspect that the anthers may be over OR under ripe, or that the cultural conditions are not suitable for pollen production.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2007 at 9:01AM
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LycheeLuva, not offense taken. Like I said, too many fold roll their eyes back into their heads or give me a glazed eye look when I go into details. If you have as much luck hand fertilizing as I do, you'll have to thin the fruit by hand as well. Good luck with your citrus and Merry Christmas.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2007 at 2:45PM
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Hello, this is very informative, but I'm such an amateur! I have just spent about 40 mins searching with Google to find pics of the process! I'm so uneducated botanywise, I don't know which bits of the flowers are which. Does anyone know a good site for pictures?


    Bookmark   May 7, 2008 at 1:36AM
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I mean for hand pollination of citrus, not parts of flowers!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2008 at 2:30AM
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Although all the botanical details above are correct, in the case of citrus they often irrelevant for home growers - unless you are deliberately trying to create new hybrid varieties. Citrus generally do not need pollination to set fruit. In fact, some varieties must not be pollinated to avoid seed formation in otherwise seedless fruit. The process of setting fruit without pollination is called parthenocarpy. Most citrus varieties are strongly parthenocarpic. Even those that are only weakly parthenocarpic - such as Washington Navel - generally form enough fruit without manual pollination.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2008 at 11:58AM
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citrange, even for one lemon kept inside a conservatory?


    Bookmark   May 7, 2008 at 6:55PM
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