Any serious attempt at conserving genetic lineages through cultivation, as we are attempting to do, requires careful attention to flower pollination each spring. Sarracenia flowers have an elaborate design which prevents self-pollination. If we allow bees to do the pollinating for us, they would invariably cross pollinate flowers from different locations, rendering the resulting seed useless for our purposes. Thus, flower segregation and hand-pollination are vital. Self-pollination can cause genetic depression. Thus, it is best to cross-pollinate among different plants from the same population to maintain genetic diversity.
First, a word about floral anatomy. Most flowers have anthers (male reproductive part) which disperse pollen. The pollen is transferred to the female receptors called stigmas. The pollen then grows “roots”; through the style to the ovary, where immature seeds called ovules lie in wait. Once fertilized, the ovary swells into a fruit containing the seeds.
In the Sarracenia genus, the flower is held upside down and the style is greatly enlarged into an upside down umbrella shape. This umbrella catches the pollen produced by the anthers. Normally, bees visiting the flower pick up this pollen and, upon entering the next flower, brush the pollen against one of the stigmas located at the five tips of the style. For our purposes, we will be replicating this process, transferring pollen from one clone of a particular location to stigmas of flowers of otherclones of that same location. That way, the resulting seed will be genetically pure and can retain the same location data.
When your flower buds are close to opening, cover them with a bag of gauze or mesh tied loosely around the stem. This will prevent pollination by insects. The flower below is cut open to show all the different parts. You can access the inside of the flower by removing a petal.
When the pollen is ripe (3-5 days after opening), remove the flower covers of one group of plants (e.g., all of the Sarracenia alata plants from a particular location). Pollen grains will have started accumulating in the umbrella of each flower. Using a clean toothpick, carefully transfer these from one flower to the stigmas of other flowers in your group. Once you’ve pollinated all the stigmas using pollen from various flowers in the group, throw away the toothpick, re-cover all of your flowers, and move on to another group.
The ovaries should swell, harden and crack open in a few months. Each ovary produces hundreds of seeds, so there will be plenty to share. Remember to keep good records of everything for the NASC database.