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Hand Pollinating Orchis (or similar) species ?

My Orchis italica is in bloom again and my O.fragrans is right on it's heels. I'd love to be able to get seed from these this year and get them flasked. I was wondering if anyone has any experience with pollinating flowers like this. The flowers are somewhat similar to Platanthera and Habenaria species. I don't even know where to begin......a small paint brush ?

I'd recommend a toothpick or sewing needle. Orchids are unusual in that they don't produce pollen in the same way that most plants do. Their pollen isn't "dusty" but instead in the form of a solid pollinia.

Here are a couple videos to help along the way...I know they aren't at all related to your species, but the anatomy of orchids are pretty similar.


Congrats on getting these to bloom! They aren't terribly common or easy species in general.
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Cool plants!
Haven't done these myself but have done many others in the past. The tool of choice is a toothpick. Wearing one of those magnifying headgears is a big help with the wee ones. Examine the flower and see if you can see the sticky part where you put the pollen (stigma) it's usually right behind the anther (his nose in this case). If you cannot see the parts readily pluck one of the flowers and dissect it to find where the goodies are. Once you have found the stigmatic surface grab your toothpick and gently lift up on his nose (the anther cap) from inside the flower. The pollen cap will come off and the pollinia will be exposed and you can now touch it with the toothpick and it will stick - if it doesn't stick touch the toothpick to the stigma and get some of the stigmatic fluid on it and try again . Once you have the pollen in hand, so to speak, transfer it to the stigma and wait. If the flower withers away in a few days you're pretty sure to have been successful.

BTW The pollinia and stigma positions are reversed from the Phals.. The pollinators in this case either stick their heads or beaks into the flower and remove the pollen on the way out on the bottom of their heads or beaks. When they enter the next flower it is deposited on the stigma assuring cross pollination. Phals are pollinated by moths so the flower structure is somewhat reversed (can't get those big wings in there) but the effect is the same.

Here is a link with info on in vitro culture of terrestrials you might find useful. Orchis italica is about half way down the page.

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Thanks. I think I'll remove and disect one of the flowers to get a good handle on their anotomy before giving it a try.
Those are some amazing flowers. Good luck with your pollination efforts.
Wow are you growing these indoors completely or do they get moved outside at some point?
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Strictly indoors. I pollinated a few flowers earlier. Fingers crossed.
Well, it appears my attempts at pollination were not in vain. All the flowers I pollinated have withered and dropped and the stalks behind the flowers are swelling up nicely. The seeds will be going into TC with an experienced grower as soon as they are ready. Thanks for all the advice !
Strictly indoors.

Really? Excellent. Do they require a cool or dry dormancy? If cool, I imagine you have a cool area in your greenhouse or basement for them?
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All my Orchis and Ophrys species are winter growing/spring flowering. They all need a warm, dry summer dormancy. I had been growing them in the basement under lights beside my tuberous Drosera and other winter growers but tried them on a window sill this year. They all flowered but more slowly and the plants aren't as robust as they had been in years past. I'm going to try and make some room down there once they go dormant for next year.
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The majority of the pods are spoken for but if all goes well with them, I might have a half dozen or so that I will gladly give to people with experience in flasking orchids.