The Pollination of Anthurium Flowers
by Neil Carroll

There are many reasons to pollinate your Anthuriums and these reasons vary from person to person. The taxonomist may make hybrid pollinations in an effort to better understand the relationship between the two species crossed. He may also self-pollinate a particular plant to determine if it is of hybrid origin. The collector pollinates to produce hybrids or to increase his collection.

In order to increase one's collection of Anthurium you may divide the plants and root cuttings or you may pollinate your plants and grow new ones from seed. In Anthurium this is not automatically achieved by the plant except in a few species ( i.e. A. gracile, A. scandens and A. bakeri ) due to the sequence of events in the sex life of the plant. Anthuriums have perfect flowers, bearing both male and female working parts. The difficulty is this; the stigma (female) is ready for pollination before the pistals (male) presents its pollen. In nature this helps to insure cross-pollination and discourages self-pollination. For the grower who wants to pollinate his plants, this creates some nuiscence.

Telling when a paricular Anthurium inflorescence is ready for pollination is a very easy matter. The stigma will exude a drop of fluid (fig. 1) which will sit at the apex of each individual flower on the spadix. Some species present this droplet on all flowers at the same time and others may present theirs in succesion. This usually takes place in the early morning hours. At any rate when these droplets are present, the flower is 'ready' to be pollinated.

(PHOTO PENDING) anthurium pollen
Fig. 1 Spadix showing stigmatic fluid Fig. 2 Spadix showing pollen

Having pollen ready for this momentus occasion is going to be the "trick" you will have to learn. One way is to grow several clones of the same species to help insure that stigmatic fluid and pollen are present at the same time. Rarely will the same plant have stigmatic fluid and pollen at the same time, although it does happen in some species on occasion. If you only have one clone of a species, then your job becomes more difficult. As many species put forth more than one inflorescence in succession, it is possible to collect and store pollen from an earlier inflorescence and use it when the next inflorescence is 'ready'. Several methods are used to collect and store pollen. Pollen is ready to be collected and/or used when it is visible on the surface of the spadix. The timing of this event is always after the last of the stigmatic fluid is dried up and no longer visible. Pollen will be shed for a few to several days. You can wipe if off with your finger, a brush, or tap it into paper envelopes for storage in a cool dry place. The pollen will not last more than a week or two. Some will store the pollen in air tight containers, with or without a dessecant, some feel the pollen is more likely to mold in the refrigerator. An individual will have to experiment with various methods to find out which fits their species requirements and personal horticultural habits.

So.. if you have stigmatic fluid showing, and pollen exuding, (from storage or another plant) you are ready to pollinate. Simply take the pollen and place in on the spadix and with a brush or your finger smear it up and down and around the spadix. Do this for several mornings in a row or as long as you have fluid and pollen available. Make out a tag with your pollination information on it and wait for the berries to form.

The berries will typically contain one or two seeds, depending on the species and health of the plant. Berries are ripe when they acheive their proper color and size. You will be sure they are ready when they literally 'pop out' of the spadix ( Fig. 3 ). Some species berries 'pop out' all at once and some 'pop out' over a period of several days as they ripen in succession. These berries with their seeds are ready. The seeds can easily be squezed out of the berry between your fingers. The seed should be sown immediatly as it dessicates easily and is not viable for very long. Storage of seed is of little value.

Fig. 3 Berries of A. longipeltatum
'poping out' of the spadix

Seed often has a small green radicle already emerging at the time of seed harvest. Germination takes from 1-3 weeks in most cases, but may take longer in some species. Give seedlings a well drained soilless mix and be careful of fungal and bacterial attacks and your seedlings will be well on their way.

Copyright © 2007 by Neil Carroll. All rights reserved.