How to pollinate Pinguicula flowers

Side view of a Pinguicula “Tina” flower

You might have noticed that despite of producing a lot of beautiful flowers, you never get seeds from your Pinguicula. Most people do not mind it because they are easily propagated by leaf pullings, but it is important to understand why this happens if you want to create hybrids between two species.

Self-pollination rarely occurs in Pinguicula because of the morphology of their flowers. They have evolved in such a way that the pollen of a flower will not reach the stigma without the intervention of a pollinator – usually an insect.

This means that if you want to be sure to get seeds from your Pinguicula flowers, you will have to pollinate them yourself. This is not hard, but it requires some knowledge of the Pinguicula flower morphology.

Before beginning the pollination you need to be aware of two things. Firstly, this procedure will require you to remove the petals of the flower, so make sure to appreciate the flower and eventually take pictures of it beforehand. Secondly, most Mexican Pinguicula are not autogamous which means that you will need two flowers from two genetically different plants in order to get seeds.

Step 1: Remove the petals

To expose the flower’s reproductive organs, we begin by completely removing the petals. Grab the lower three petals with one hand and the two upper ones with the other hand, then gently pull them apart in the direction indicated by the arrows on the picture.

You can now clearly see the stigma (female reproductive organ), and the two anthers (male reproductive organs) hidden behind it!

Step 2: Gather pollen

Grab a toothpick and paint the tip black using a sharpie. Rub it against the anthers, don’t hesitate to gently lift the stigma in order to access them. Check the tip of your toothpick for tiny yellow grains – it’s pollen! It might take multiple attempts before the pollen sticks to it. If it doesn’t, it might mean that the anthers aren’t ripe yet. Try again in a day or two. Sometimes the anthers will break off the flower; it’s not a big deal as long as you can catch it.

Step 3: Pollinate

This step is pretty straightforward, just rub the toothpick covered in pollen on the stigma and make sure the pollen sticks to it. Remember, you will need to do this on the flower of another plant for Mexican Pinguicula and other non-autogamous species. This other plant needs to be genetically different than the plant from which the pollen comes from, which means that it will not work on plants grown from pullings of the same parent.

Step 4: Wait

All you need to do now is wait. If the pollination was successful the ovaries will start swelling after a few days. Once the fruit is ripe it will dry and split open, you can then shake it to harvest the numerous seeds!

Fruit of Pinguicula planifolia

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