Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Spilled Pollen

 Here's a very pretty African violet flower. This is actually a "grocery store" plant but it shows some pretty nice characteristics such as strong peduncles (the stalk holding up the flower cluster) and large, long lasting flowers.
In this picture you can see the center of the flower. It looks like there are some little "dusty" bits of something on the right hand side of the stamen. Most people won't  be looking closely at this feature, but if you are adding plants to your collection you might want to know about this. This "pollen spill" might be caused by thrips.
Thrips are small insects that hide and breed and feed in the center of the flower. They eat pollen and to get at it they will rip open the pollen sac and some of the pollen grains will spill onto the petals near the center of the flower. This might be caused by the owner bumping the flower, or it might be caused by other pollinators like bees coming to flowers on a plant that's grown outdoors, but for the indoor grower, this should be a warning sign to check your plant a bit closer.

If you are checking your own plants at home, look for little torpedo shaped insects quickly moving about on the petals. Using a hand lens is also helpful to see the bugs (they are quite small). As you might have guessed, a dark flower shows up the pollen spill and the insects much more easily than a white or light colored flower. Insecticides aren't usually very effective for a thrip infestation. Disbudding the plant and then keeping the plant disbudded (which means pulling off all flower stalks and blooms) for a period of 6 months usually takes care of the problem! Questions???? Leave a comment please.