Theo Sanders, Germany

Open Pollination

July 8, 2017

Categories: Fertility, Hybridizing, Pollination, Science

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My first steps as a hybridizer were to cross standard daffodils. I read in the literature that it is not necessary to prevent open pollination because only 1 to 1,5 % of the flowers generate seed without pollination of the breeder. Later on I saw for my daffodil field that this value can be essentially higher, perhaps 10 % or more in special cases. The bumble bees prefer especially longer trumpets for example from Goldfinger, Verdant, Longitude and Reference Point. I got for crosses of standard daffodils some open pollinated seedlings. But this is not really a problem because many seedlings from open pollination come  from selfing  and this can generate beautiful plants.

The problems began when I started to combine standard daffodils with species. In 2007, I harvested for example 20 seed pots with 160 seeds of Verdant x N. bulbocodium (Sierra Madrona) and 9 seed pots with 90 seeds of Banker x N. bulbocodium (Sierra Madrona) and moreover many seeds in other years from different standard daffodils x N. hedraeanthus. Allover perhaps 5 seedlings were the planned crosses. Similar experience I made with fertile jonquilla hybrids like Hillstar, Regeneration and Limequilla as seed parents. From Hillstar I yielded nice seedlings by combining it with N. hedraeanthus, N. cyclamineus, N. triandrus pallidulus and the diploid cantabricus and bulbocodium from Spain. Here the number of op seedlings was not too big, but with Limequilla and Regeneration I produced up to 100 % of seedlings which I didn’t want. I drew false conclusions concerning the success of special crosses. Now I have some fine seedlings of jonquilla hybrids which were not intended. Thousands  of seedlings were grown up thinking they were the planned crosses. The fertile jonquilla hybrids often set seed as many as species without being pollinated by the hybridizer. They have the potential for natural distribution without human support.

What is the solution of the problem? You can make crosses in the greenhouse or on the window sill. There you have usually no insects or can kill them. Outdoors you can protect the flower from open pollination by mesh bags. For the production of many seeds outdoors I tried a new method this year. The plants were protected before flowering by a fabric network. After establishing the protection an insecticide was sprayed on the plants through the net. When nearly all flowers are open the net is removed and the blossoms are pollinated. Then the net is applied again and perhaps further spraying of an insecticide is necessary.  The construction of the enclosure is simple and can be manufactured by anyone. If there is an interest I can give technical details.


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4 Responses to Open Pollination

  1. Clay Higgins, New Jersey
    Clay Higgins, New Jersey
    July 8, 2017 at 5:51 am

    Hi Theo,

    I have implied the same problem that you experienced with jonquilla daffodils self pollination many times on internet.  I have no magical solution, just a theory that has helped me.

    Jonquils are notoriously self pollinators.  Daffodils are ready to receive pollen as soon as they open, however the pollen is not ready for a few days as it needs time to mature.  I have advised several times that you have to be careful when pollinating jonquils as you yourself can cause the self-pollination my shaking the long pollen pods onto the stamen when trying to apply pollen.  I therefore with my little experience offer two possible solutions that I have used to some success.

    1. carefully remove all the pollen antlers before you apply the pollen you want. (do this early after bloom)
    2. deadhead all that you do no pollinate, or you will have “tons” of self pollinated seed on your hands.  I learned this the hard way as those species jonquil seeds will fall on the ground and your beds will get covered with volunteer self-seeded jonquil seedling.

    I hope some  of our more noted hybridizers will give the benefit of their experience.


  2. Theo Sanders, Germany
    Theo Sanders, Germany
    July 9, 2017 at 11:38 pm


    I have some N. jonquilla minor with  styles above the anthers and pollinate them in the greenhouse.


  3. Clay Higgins, New Jersey
    Clay Higgins, New Jersey
    July 10, 2017 at 5:42 am

    Hi Theo,

    The greenhouse is something that most of us American don’t have at their homes.

    Most of the N. jonquilla that I am familiar with has the styles below the anthers, that why they pollinate themselves so often. I don’t have jonquilla minor.


  4. Lawrence Trevanion, Australia
    Lawrence Trevanion, Australia
    July 29, 2017 at 2:07 am

    Hi Theo,

    Often I examine the stigma and if there is no pollen on it I cover it with the desired pollen. Often I also deanther.

    This time of year I have trouble with bees taking pollen that I want and so for small flowers I use a very low tech  cage made from fly screen.