Basil cross pollinating, what are the odds?

Christen17(6a)July 28, 2013

I planted a dedicated herb garden for the first time this year. It's about 25'x25' with 4 foot wide raised beds and an open area inside so I can reach everything. I planted all my basil together in one long bed, about 6 to 10 plants each; Sweet, Genovese, Sacred, Sweet Dani , Lemon, Thai. The Sacred basil smells so wonderful that, next year I want to plant a lot more than the 6 plants that I did this year. I was thinking of saving the seeds from this year. But what are the odds that the basils have cross pollinated with each other? When I laid out the garden cross pollination didn't even occur to me. (DUH!) I was so proud of myself to being "organized" enough to get everything planted and labeled. The basil plants get lots of happy bee action. I don't want to plant seeds that won't come true next year. So, what are the chances?

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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Basil flowers are self pollinating, which means no insect is needed. However, if two different kinds of basils flower along side at the same time, they might get crossed. BTW , bees love basil flowers.

So if you want to prevent crossing, you can cover then with nylon tulle so the insects cannot get into them.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 1:13AM
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nickl(Z7a NJ)

Basil is "self- pollinating" and self -fertile, meaning it has both male and female parts on the same flower and that a flower can be pollinated by its own parts and produce fertile seeds. Some small amount of seeds will set without insect activity, but in natural conditions, the vast majority of seeds are produced by insect activity.

There is no guarantee that a pollinating insect won't be carrying "foreign" pollen. In fact, if different basils are growing in close proximity, chances are very good that the pollen will be mixed. With the basils, cross-pollination between varieties and even between different species is very common.

In other words, if you want the seed to remain true to type, you must protect the flowers from pollinating insect activity. You can use a fine mesh bag. If you manually pollinate by shaking the plant, you'll get a better set but it's not absolutely necessary.

This post was edited by nickl on Mon, Jul 29, 13 at 9:51

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 9:39AM
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Thank you both. Bummer. I'll have to be more careful about placement next spring! I'm going to try the tulle next summer. Maybe I'll just put some in the veggie garden with my tomatoes and only one or two types in the herb garden as far away from each other as possible.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2013 at 4:27PM
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nickl(Z7a NJ)

You may not have the space to do it by separation.

With basil, to ensure you won't get cross-pollination, you must separate basil varieties.or species by at least 300 yards. Most home properties aren't large enough to make that separation.

"Bagging" a few bloom clusters is much easier.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mesh Bags

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 9:09AM
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yukkuri_kame(Sunset 19 / USDA 9)

African Blue Basil is an accidental cross between Dark Opal Purple Basil (italian origin) and an african basil. It does not produce viable seed, however, I am growing it among several italian basils in the hope that it produces some viable pollen, if not seed. It'd love to have a 3/4 Dark Opal and 1/4 African mix. The african parentage is great because of cold tolerance, perennial habit and soooo easy to propagate by cuttings.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2013 at 4:25AM
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yukkuri_kame(Sunset 19 / USDA 9)

Keep in mind that plants can be isolated in both time and space. By only letting one type of basil flower at a time, (that means cutting back before they flower) you can keep that basil pure. If you are in love with the tulsi, don't let the others flower for a few weeks, until you have the seed you need.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2013 at 4:28AM
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nickl(Z7a NJ)

Hi yukkuri_kame:

I'll still assert that IMO, bagging a few bloom clusters is easier and more reliable. I've used bags on many different flowering plants over the years and it is really a simple do-it-once-and-forget-it operation. Just as one example, what if your neighbor down the block happens to be growing basil, too? Three hundred yards is pretty far. YMMV, of course.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2013 at 9:35AM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Tulsi or sacred basil is a perennial unlike sweet basil. Dig and bring I for the winter. With luck, it will over winter for you. I've overwintered it successfully many times.


    Bookmark   August 10, 2013 at 9:18PM
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yukkuri_kame(Sunset 19 / USDA 9)

you are surely right nickl

    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 5:28PM
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yukkuri_kame(Sunset 19 / USDA 9)

Collected the first of my seeds from Italian Sweet Basil which I have had growing right next to the African Blue Basil.

The African Blue does not produce seed, but it flowers and flowers. I watch the bees go back and forth between the Italian and the African, hoping the African produces viable pollen and I might have some crosses between the Italian and the African. Worst case scenario is I end up with a lot of italian basil.

The African is prolific, frost hardy, perennial and propagates easier from cuttings than most basils - but the flavor is only mediocre. I have some Dark Purple Opal seedlings and cuttings from Thai Basil coming along I will also try to hybridize with the African Basil.

Not sure how to emasculate basil... if I emasculate the Italian, Thai or Opal, then any seed should have African parentage?

    Bookmark   August 28, 2013 at 3:07PM
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