Paphiopedilum VinicolorThe congenial morning cup of coffee gave way to much more indecent ideas as the second bud on the voluptuous Vinicolor begun to unfold. The first flower was still in fine form and with one more on the way I felt the first could be sacrificed for science… or at least some experimenting. I have never pollinated an orchid before, but I have been wanting to give it a try for quite some time now. Plus, my local orchid society is planning a course in seed propagation sometime this coming year, and the admittance fee for this is to bring a seed pod.

First I was trying to figure out how to pollinate Masdevallia, but found the shape and size of the flowers really hard to work with, so onto something larger and more accessible for the first try. I found the big beautiful Paphiopedilum Vinicolor to be the perfect victim since the flowers are really large and it is easy to see where all the pertinant, ehm, parts are located. The whole process really consists of a number of rather shameful violations that hardly feel moral… but then again, “morality is the weakness of the brain”, at least according to my favorite poet (Arthur Rimbaud), so onward and upward. No time for remorse.

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Armed with a couple of toothpicks I carefully removed both anther caps (that holds the pollen). Look for the two tiny yellow balls hiding behind the *staminode (*the pink butterfly looking part with a green center on the Vinicolor). The anther caps on Paphiopedilum are sticky, so this part was easy. Since most of the stigma is hidden behind the lip (or pouch) it is much easier to see what you need to do if it is removed, I cut mine off using a sterile blade. It was rather tragic to see the flower mutilated in this way, but I was on a mission.

Onto finding the stigma… it basically looks like a  smooth and flat bump underneath the staminode (it is easier to see what you are doing if you lay the plant down for this step). I placed the anther caps on the underside of the stigma, attempting to position the inner pollen mass towards the stigma as best I could. Some remove the inner pollen mass from the anther cap before doing this and then smear it onto the stigma, but I did not. Hopefully it will still work… otherwise I will try that method next time. I used both pollen caps in hopes to both maximizing my chances of success as well as the amount of seed produced.

Now all I have to do is wait and see if the pollination was successful. But Paphiopedilum seed pods take a very long time to mature, up to 10 months (!). So I need to try pollinating something else if I want to bring a pod to the class at the orchid society. I have a Prosthechea cochleata in bloom right now. I think will give that a try as I think their seed pods mature pretty quickly.  But I really need to figure out how to pollinate my Masdevallia… their seed pods only take about 3,5 months to reach maturity and would be the perfect candidate for the class. If I only had a microscope…

I usually begin by removing the pollen with a toothpick. On Paphs, as I’ve mentioned, they are sticky and will stick to the end of the toothpick with little difficulty. Phrags, on the other hand, aren’t so sticky (in my experience). I’ve heard that some people use honey, others use a little saliva to help stick the pollen to the toothpick and then to the stigma.Removal of the pollen can be done later, but I like to do it first; this way, if I’m sloppy and drop the pollen, there’s a good chance that it will fall into the pouch, and I won’t lose it!