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 hand pollination 
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Joined: Tue Jan 26, 2010 1:42 pm
Posts: 188
Post hand pollination
A year or so ago there was a poster named "Rooney" on this forum who said he had done a lot of hand pollinating......

I'd like to talk to him (or anyone with experience) about this.

We have had unusually wet and cold spring weather here in the Northwest and the bees won't be able to do their job.....it is already too late for some of the Asian plum trees that have blossomed already..... and the pears, peaches, apricots, cherries, etc. are soon to bloom and we still don't have a whole lot of sun for the bees and other pollinators to shout about, get excited about....or come out and buzz around. I have relatively good confidance we will finally get some sun by the time the apple trees bloom in .....what looks to me to be late April or early May (quite late, no?)

So, I wonder whether hand pollination might do the job for those trees that are blooming in the next week or two.

But Seattle hasn't even reached 60 degrees yet. Even if someone hand pollinated would the pollen germinate in these kinds of temperatures?

Thanks in advance.


Thu Apr 07, 2011 7:33 pm
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Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 10:57 am
Posts: 1363
Location: Portland, OR
Post Re: hand pollination
I noticed the same, Don, and I hand pollinated my Asian plum trees. I also moved last year so the pollinators haven't really found me yet. I set out new "homes" for them, so I'm sure that they will multiply. Every one I left out last year filled completely 100% up.
I should have hand pollinated my Russian tree quince last year. One of my favorite fruits, after the move, I got one quince instead of usually about 70. Hoping for more this year.
John S
PDX OR


Thu Apr 07, 2011 8:46 pm
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Joined: Tue Jan 26, 2010 1:42 pm
Posts: 188
Post Re: hand pollination
I actually haven't spent time studying the flower ....and I need to do this.....can you recognize the pollen? Do you know when it is on your brush? Do you make sure you have two different varieties for your plum? Are you able to see when the pollen attaches to the female part of the flower?

Today is sunny in Seattle......finally!.....I actually saw a bee out there doing its job on a plum tree today......but all of next week will be rainy off and on......shucks....unusually cold and wet this Spring....which is not good for our apple scab, anthracnose, or pollination.....but am not crying "global cooling" ......just yet.......maybe a good opportunity to learn more about this hand pollination thing.


Fri Apr 08, 2011 3:06 pm
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Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 10:57 am
Posts: 1363
Location: Portland, OR
Post Re: hand pollination
I first started doing it with pawpaws, because they are severely under pollinated due to a lack of pollinators here. Same with pineapple guava. I use a kids artists paintbrush-30 for a dollar at a dollar store. They work great. I usually use two different varieties if I have them, unless it's something that doesn't need two varieties.

I don't worry about seeing the pollen because I have found it to be so effective empirically.
John S
PDX OR


Fri Apr 08, 2011 9:01 pm
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Joined: Sun Aug 06, 2006 5:03 pm
Posts: 83
Location: Vancouver WA
Post Re: hand pollination
I would have to agree it's too late for the asian plum early bloomers if your like us in the Portland area. Other than the lack of dry weather the next thing I would be a bit concerned about are for pear trees because they don't attract many bees since they don't go to pear blooms for the nectar. They do go on pear for other reasons being "dry pollen", weather conditions permitting. Thus every year I have pears. Honeybees on my pears only dance on top of the anthers and "never" drink nectar.

Heads of anthers that have burst and have become wet is the worst situation because the pollen gets washed out and degrades in viability very quickly. Additionally the bees can't gather damp pollen. Everything around here west of Cascades where we very often get nailed by rain it gets rather tricky.

Let me share a true story of what I did for a friend of to his sweet cherry, self-incompatable 'royal anne' which had no other pollinator trees around so he never had fruit for years on a pretty large tree;

I waited until the "RA" cherry had open blooms on a clear day. I went to my pie cherries blooming in my yard. Making sure they were dry I do a pollen deposit test looking for specs of light yellow when lightly rubbed on glossy dark paper. If this fails I gather blooms that are ready to open and pull all the sepals off with tweezers and stand them on toothpicks indoors 12" in front of a 60 watt light bulb for 12 hours. I used only three or four blooms to do my friends one large tree but you can use more. After the 12 hour period I would cut each bloom in half or thirds and with each dry sectional blossom I would dunked 2 blooms on RA cherry long enough that it looked like there was no more left of pollen from what each piece I had in my hand. This was for about 15 blooms on one half side of the tree on (fortunately) a dry day. The slightest wind gust can be a real nuisance so guard your blooms from blowing somehow.

Last year was a heavy cherry crop every where! He had thought for years he had insufficiently sprayed his RA cherry. What I think happened (as planned) is the bees picked up small amounts of my cross pollen and moved them around to the others.

In between any weather breaks this seems very simple to me to do every year. It beats planting or grafting another cherry tree since that option still depends on the same factors etc.

-hope it helps.


Sat Apr 09, 2011 11:53 am
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Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2012 8:49 am
Posts: 2
Post Re: hand pollination
This was a great forum. I've been helping friends restore an old cider orchard in Upstate NY that has 4 large unknown pear trees in it that show no sign of fruiting since we started three years ago. I grafted some of my own pear scions onto the trees and also hand pollinated the blooms to see if we can get a fruit to identify. I didn't realize that the bees weren't enthusiastic. It was difficult to see the pollen, since it's not as pale and fluffy as the pollen from the apple blossoms. I guess we'll see. I've also taken scions from a wonderful unidentified russet apple to graft onto my own trees. We think it may be related to a st. Edmund's Pippin or Cox's Orange. This orchard teaches us something new every year.


Tue Apr 24, 2012 9:10 am
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Joined: Tue Jan 26, 2010 1:42 pm
Posts: 188
Post Re: hand pollination
A few of us volunteers are trying our hand at hand pollinating the Red Astrachans maybe and the Forelle pear and a few other trees that haven't been doing well at our historic Piper's orchard this weekend.

I bought the pollen from Antles Pollen in Wenatchee....They air mail the stuff in a special packet where you have to keep it frozen....they were willing to ship it in small quantities. I believe Firman Pollen in Yakima are also willing to do the same.....Both of these pollen companies are aware that a few small-time gardeners are developing an interest in this lost art of hand-pollinating.

Antles sends a little booklet explaining how to do it. There are also a few YouTubes on the subject....

Perhaps I can let you know how our results go....and would be interested to hear from others on the same.


Thu Apr 26, 2012 7:49 am
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Joined: Sun Aug 06, 2006 5:03 pm
Posts: 83
Location: Vancouver WA
Post Re: hand pollination
Piper's orchard for pears in Seattle? I'm not familiar with that orchard but many pear trees I know in Seattle are usually earlier than they are compared to where I am now in Vancouver WA.

For male or female one easy way to find peak fertility in a pear tree flower is anther coloration. Male-female parts should each peak about the same as each other. Pear anthers will start purple-brown changing completely to light yellow when pollen's produced. (cherries, apples and plums I know don't start dark but stay almost the same shade of yellow some times turning orange). Aiming for receptive peaking of the flower is important on lesser productive types. I go for the beginning stage of stickiness in the female stamens which arise out from the center of the flower.
-If I can I choose the time there are still "50%" dark anthers showing or as soon after that as possible.

I am over set with pears on certain productive varieties because of honey bees this year which are beyond anything I can do about it since I don't own them. Although one of my favorite asian pear trees rarely produces. This tree is full of flower and gets proper pollen from other pears. I think of this as a case of female lack of fertility because no other thing seems reasonable. I used to have a Hosui asian pear with the same thing, same yard, but I tore Hosui out years ago.


Fri Apr 27, 2012 1:25 am
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