SO Gardening May 19

Sunday, May 19, 2019

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Dear Orchid Doc:

Is it possible to safely store and keep viable cymbidium pollen? How long will it remain in good condition and how should it be stored? I would like to do some standard cymbidium breeding but one cultivar, which is in spike, has not yet bloomed and I want to use it as the capsule parent plant.


Dear Tom:

For the short time you have in mind, remove the pollen, wrap in clean paper and store in a cool, dry place. Small Post-its can be folded up to store pollen. The pollen will keep this way for at least a year. For longer storage, the use of a dessicant is recommended. We have stored pollen in a stoppered test tube, with desiccant in the bottom held in by cotton. Pollen will keep for some years this way. Be sure to label and date the packets.

Dear Orchid Doc:

What would cause the petals and sepals on one of my phalaenopsises to stick together and not open fully?


Dear Mildred:

Assuming that this is a plant that has flowered normally before, there are several possible causes. Atmospheric dryness can prevent normal opening. It can be a passing anomalous blooming, or it can be genetic. It could also be that the plant is exuding sap and the sticky material is causing the flower parts to stick.

Dear Orchid Doc:

Can you tell me what the secretions are that some orchid plants put out around the stems of their flowers? Sometimes it is sticky and develops sooty mould like on Grammatopyllum scriptum. On other orchids, such as Oncidium Sharry Baby, it is more watery. I find it seems to appear in the morning.


Dear Tessa

The secretion is simply plant sap, called honeydew, which is secreted by healthy plants. It is as you note, basically sugar water, and can lead to sooty mould. This is why sooty mould can often be an indicator of sucking insects, which feed on this same sap, supplied to them by the plant's osmotic pressure. When the pressure is sufficiently high, the sap passes right through the bugs' digestive systems, resulting in conditions favourable for sooty mould.

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