Each year there is a small window of opportunity to collect certain botanical data on blueberry. Data is collected for potential releases and plant patents. I work on both muscadines and blueberries, but right now, I’m knuckle deep in blueberry analysis for my boss.
Currently, time is of the essence to collect flowers and analyze their parts for numerous parameters including color, size, number, etc. In this photo, pollinated flowers are quickly becoming young blueberries.
How did I know what to collect? Well, I printed off plant patents and release documents for other blueberries. I refreshed myself with terminology I learned in Plant Taxonomy at the University of Arkansas. (I’m the nerd who carries around flash cards from graduate school so I can study and refresh when I have down time such as waiting at the doctor’s office).
I also had to Google search and find other USDA ARS, University Extension, and text book references to analyzing plant parts.
For the past few weeks here is what I have been working on:
Flower length; flower occurrence; flowering period; corolla color, length, diameter, and aperture; stigma length and color; style length, calyx diameter and color; stamen length, stamen color, anther length; the number of flowers per cluster; immature flower color; pollen abundance and color; flower pedicel color and length; flower peduncle color and length, and whether or not flowering occurs before, during or after leaf emergence. Using a RHS colour chart, means that you should be using north light, which I don’t really have. But I will use several attempts to verify each color and maintain consistency.
Image of blueberry pollen in a petri dish with the remaining flower part of style/stigma, calyx, pedicel and somewhere in that image, the stamen:
Image of late afternoon sun shining in on the half dissection view of stamen located inside the calyx :
Image of petri dish filled with male parts (stamen: filament and anther, and in the case of blueberry, each anther has a pair of anther tubes):
Another blueberry image with description:
Another image where I am measuring a single stamen. The stamen measurement does not include the anther tubes. The light green yellow part is the filament. In the middle the darker orange brown is the anther:
Blueberry stamen image with petri dish sitting on one of my botanical description pages:
Blueberry stamen image where I placed the petri dish on my RHS colour chart for contrast:
Image of blueberry flowers in various stages:
Late afternoon sun shining on my laboratory blueberry cuttings:
Blueberry pollen image. This particular selection had a lot of pollen and the flowers were dry, making it easy to extract the pollen and collect it in the center of the dish with a paint brush:
Blueberry pollen color analysis:
Blueberry flower bracteoles:
Blueberry flower dissection:
Another image of me extracting pollen by gently rubbing and working the corolla (I’m milking it for all it is worth!):
For each I randomly take cuttings from various parts of the plant and of more than one plant when at all possible. Usually, the cuttings are long enough for me to put in beakers of water so that I can continue to have a fresh supply of tissue to work with; however, I did put some small cuttings in the refrigerator last week, which worked well, except that moisture collected inside the corolla, making it nearly impossible to extract pollen from the anthers. (Tip!)
I hope this gives you an idea of just some of the “end” data collected on potential releases and plant patent applications. It is a bit of micro work. You do need to give your eyes a break. You will get a snoot full of pollen and probably be able to feel the itchy eyes and burning throat after a days work extracting pollen grains. But I do love it! And with some groovy tunes like my Disney, Classic Out West Westerns, Hawaiian, or Jimmy Buffett/Beach playlists, I can rock all day. Tomorrow? I’ll be playing my Mardi Gras playlist all day in the lab! Next week? Its St. Patrick’s Day music and I’ll do some jigs in between samples. You gotta take joy whenever you can get joy.
As a Certified Professional Horticulturist, an ISA Certified Arborist, with a B.S.A. in Landscape Design and Urban Horticulture and an M.S. in Horticulture, I really do enjoy this kind of plant science work.
The Garden Maiden
All images and text copyright 2019 The Garden Maiden