Today we’re going to continue our series on all things brugmansia. The topic for today is brugmansia seed: where it comes from and how to make it. Just the basics and more detailed links provided.
First of all, brugmansias don’t self seed. They’re not marigolds. The only brugs that get it on successfully with themselves are the arboreas. So, go Google brugmansia arboreas and find out about it. The rest of the family need pollen from other brugmansias to make seed. They’re like human beings in that respect. Try mating with yourself…nothing. Try mating with George Clooney…little you/Clooney babies. That’s the math. Pretty simple.
Brug flowers are pollinated in a number of ways. Birds do it , bees do it, even educated fleas do it. Let’s do it let’s pollinate brugs. More importantly, human beings like myself do it. Why? Well, why would you accept pollen from George Clooney? Of course, you want kids that look something like him AND you. Future Hollywood stars. Its the same with brugs. You want to combine the genetic material in two different plants, because you want to create new and different flower colors and forms. If all the planets, or genes, align beautifully; your seed progeny have the prospect of becoming Brad Pitt or Greta Garbo. If there’s a misfire in the genes, well…Frankenstein. The idea is to know your plants like you do your family members.
Example. Brugmansia Dorthea is a lovely thing: long, elegant tendrils, nice wide corolla, deep watermelon color, medium growth habit, flushes often in all temperatures, good overall health. Let’s call Dorthea the bride. Brugmansia Moulin Rouge is a multi-corolla stunner with up to four corollas, medium tendrils, multi-colors, medium growth habit, flushes often in cooler weather, good overall health. Let’s call Moulin Rouge the groom.
Since we’re the matchmaker, we have to start planning the wedding by envisioning the kind of flower we hope to produce by taking into account the historic strengths of each plant and the kinds of flowers they’ve produced from seeds they’ve made in the past. If I have experience pollinating brugs, I have a ballpark idea of those outcomes. If I’m not experienced, I can visit Brugmansia Growers International’s DATABASE OF KNOWN CULTIVARS. By typing both Dorthea and Moulin Rouge into that database, I can find out what (if any) outcomes that combination of pollens has produced in the form of new named cultivars. Who’s your daddy now? LOL! I can also find out how many times those plants have been used INDIVIDUALLY to create new flower forms. I can ascertain how many times Dorthea has passed on those long tendrils to new cultivars, and I can see how many times Moulin Rouge has passed on those lovely, multi-corolla genes. If I don’t find any of that information there, it means I’m in adventureland…I’ll be the first to make the connection between the two.
OK…so we’ve checked out the family, rented the hall, bought the dress, sent out the invitations and finished arguing with the caterer. Its time for the ceremony. Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to unite these two flowers in holy matrimony. We take pollen from Moulin Rouge and place it on Dorthea’s flower stigma. Moulin Rouge is the pollen donor and Dorthea is the pod parent. If Dorthea accepts Moulin Rouge pollen, she will bear the pod and seeds. If she doesn’t accept the pollen, all bets are off, and the flower shrivels and dies. This doesn’t mean she won’t accept Moulin Rouge pollen at some other time. Not everyone gets pregnant on the honeymoon, or god forbid, right there on the alter. And don’t forget to write your pollen cross on a piece of masking tape and wrap it around your pollinated flower’s stem! If you don’t, well, it might as well be the milkman did it, if you catch my drift. This is science, but bees are randy characters and hold no brief for George Clooney, Moulin Rouge or what you or the flower want. They be bees and do like…whatever!
If the hand pollination takes, all hell breaks loose in Dorthea’s ovary. DNA is going wild! Myriads of decisions are being made! Genes for tendrils are deciding to be short or long. Genes for color are deciding to be pink, white, pink and white, pink white with a touch of yellow. Genes for height are linking up. Genes for tree form are doing the old mitotic dance. There’s a chemical hoedown going on within the silent world of your pollinated flower’s innards. Within the week, the corolla and some of the external reproductive stuff drop off and you’re left with a stem, a green nub and what’s left of the stigma. That nub is the pod, the place where the newborn seeds are developing.
Don’t start handing out cigars just yet. Sometimes things go wrong. For whatever reason, the plant may abort the baby pod – oh well. Sometimes, you’re an ass and accidentally prune it off. Stuff happens. And sometimes, it gets bigger and bigger and bigger. YES!!! Success! Its important to keep your plants fertilized, watered and sprayed for insects while pods are forming, because you want to maintain healthy plants and healthy seed inside those pods.
Time to shop for nursery stuff! Go and register yourself at Home Depot or Lowes! LOL! Flats, seed starting mix, heat mats, LED lights, fungicide, seed drying trays, paper towels, hand held sprayers, labels, little ziplock bags or envelopes, little pots, misting heads for your sprayer! IT’S A BABY SEED SHOWER!
And the waiting begins…
Brugmansia seed pods have to mature before you harvest the seed. The pod’s stem has to turn yellow (umbilically speaking), and the pod itself has to turn brown and slightly slimy (what did you expect?). The waiting is endless. Brug lovers watch pods like guys watch pole dancers…intently. They sometimes take photos of them every few days and upload them to brug forums. This is called pod mania. All hybridizers have it. Anyone NOT afflicted with pod mania will find this stuff slightly nuts. Those WITH pod mania find such postings endlessly fascinating and encourage their afflicted brethren to post even more photos. This is like sitting in front of a microwave window and waiting possibly months for a potato to bake. Ah! Bliss!
After a while, the stem yellows, the pod wrinkles, a bit of slime forms and she’s ready to deliver! Grab your garden shears and cut that cord! OUCH! Now, run that baby into your garden lab, lay some paper towels on your seed tray and bust that sucker open! WOOT WOOT WOOT! You and the pantheon gods of all things nature and cosmic have produced new life! There they are…the product of your plant, your planning, your vision, your research, your plant knowledge…with a roll of the DNA dice factored in. Make sure you spread the seed out and turn it every few days until its completely dry. OK…NOW you can hand out the cigars!
Next installment: Sprouting brugmansia seeds.