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Wild Potato Vine - Need help with pollenation

Goodlettsville, TN(Zone 6a)

Wild Potato Vines grow all over one area of my yard as I explain on my website,

But they can only grow large enough to flower if they happen to come up close to the fence.
Typically only one plant is close enough to the fence--although this year I have three!

Although I had plenty of blooms last year, I have never had a single seed pod.
I have it on good authority that the Ipomea pandurata cannot self-pollenate. A bloom can only be pollenated from a bloom on a different plant. And since I have three blooming this year, I figure that here's my chance.

But although I have three blooming plants and I see bees at work on them, the blooms are excised a few days after they close and I am still not getting seed pods. I suppose that the bees are not flying from plant to plant.

So here's my question:
Can anyone tell me exactly how to go about pollenating by hand? Or point me to a clear reference?
I have never attempted anything like this. And these blooms are only going to last a few more weeks so I need to get this right.


This message was edited Jul 30, 2005 10:25 AM

This message was edited Jul 30, 2005 10:26 AM

Thumbnail by KevinTernes
Goodlettsville, TN(Zone 6a)

Here is what a photo of an excised blooms.

This message was edited Jul 30, 2005 11:58 AM

Thumbnail by KevinTernes
Jacksonville, TX(Zone 8a)

Hi Kevin,
I am soooooooooo happy to see you on Dave's -
guess I never thought to look to see if you were a memember.
Hope you can learn more about this incredibly beautiful MG.

Now, just where is that Ron when you need him!


Netcong, NJ(Zone 5b)

Hello Kevin,
Glad to hear from you and to see the nice cluster of pandurata blooms...;
Ipomoea pandurata is not absolutely(!) self-infertile...this species displays varying(!) degrees(!) of self-infertility ranging(!) from totally(!) self-infertile to partially(!) self-infertile...with some plants and strains displaying a relatively high(!) degree of self-fertility(!) ,so let's be decidedly more clear about that aspect...;
The fact that you have several plants blooming and are still not seeing any blooms,indicates that:
1) Even though you do have seveal plants blooming in relative close proximity,the several plants that you have blooming are too closely related,with not enough genetic differences being displayed in the pollen to allow for fertilization to occur.
2) Even though you do have seveal plants blooming in relative close proximity,Ipomoea pandurata is (just) one of the species where it is known,that pollenators do not always transport pollen effectively from one blossum to another

Probable remedies are 3 to 4 :

1)Definitely do transfer by hand pollen from the anthers off of each different plant(!),onto the stigma of blooms of all 3 different plants.
2) The 3 plants that you have may(!) be too closely related to allow cross fertilization to occur,even if you insure cross pollenation by hand
3) Obtain the pollen,preferably fresh from another strain(!) of Ipomoea pandurata and use this pollen to hand pollenate all 3 of your currently blooming plants.
Pollen from another compatible strain might be located in your area,in which case you could collect it yourself and pollenate, or,you might have to obtain pollen from another person who is willing and able to collect pollen from a compatible strain in their area and send you the pollen for you to use...this will almost insure that you will successfully fertilize your plants with resultant production of matured seeds.
4) If the above recommendations are either not possible or do not work,then you should grow some additional plants that originated from a different locality,to bolster your chances of having the additional compatible plants right next to your present plants,to hopefully increase the chances of successful compatible pollen transfer with resultant fertilization and production of viable seeds.

The easiest method of transferring the pollen is to manually push the pollen from fully opened anther pollen pouches,against the (usually somewhat sticky) surface of the stigma,which is located in the center of the surrounding anthers.
The pollen can also be transferred by removing an entire stamen with a tweezers (or some other similar tool),and use the anther with the pollen displayed just like a tiny paintbrush to 'paint' the surface of the stigma and apply a coating of pollen to the stigma surface...a light coating is all that is needed as the actual pollen granules are microscopic and what you see as the pollen with the unaided eye is actually many thousands of granules clumped together and only a light brushing is fact too much pollen can actually work counter productively and I will spare you the ultimate technical details(See,there is a god!),but each ovary will contain about 4 ovules(unfertilzed seeds or 'eggs') and only one(!) pollen grain can fertilize each ovule and when this fertilization takes place,the fertilized ovule develops into a seed(!)
The pollen gets transferred to the ovule by way of special pollen tube transmitting tissue in the pistil and most Ipomoea only have a maximum of 25 pollen tube transferring channels and they are not re-used,so no matter how many granules you put onto the stigma,only 25 can possibly even make it to the ovules to see if the ovule will accept them and unite.

Another method of transferring the pollen is to use a very fine tipped painters brush,like is used by artists for the very finest detailed painting...these are usually available at artists supply stores.
I have found the synthetic ones to be absolutely worthless for transferring pollen...the pollen brush must be able to do 2 things well;
1) be able to pick up the pollen from off of the anthers
2) be just as willing to release the pollen onto the surface of the stigma

I have found that the natural hair brushes do these 2 functions very well...the synthetic brushes do not(!) perform either one of these anywhere even close to well and the specialized tools available for doing most pollenation work ,I have tried and have thrown them all into the garbage as they don't work well on Ipomoeas...
Do Not use a cotton tipped Q-tip,because even though cotton swabs are great(!) at picking up pollen,they are absolutely terrible at releasing it,additionally,the way that the cotton weave on the swabtip interacts with the surface of the stigma in tearing it up(!),you might as well be using a Brillo pad(!)...
Some additional things to keep in mind:

Do Not apply too much pressure onto the stigma surface or you may induce damage that is not visible to the unaided eye,and could result in 'bruising' the stigma and the bruised tissue will initiate enzymatically induced tissue degradation and/or necrosis and >be detrimental to successful fertilization

Do Not apply any water or other liquids to either the pollen or the stigma as this will impair pollenation and/or fertilization
The hand pollenation is best done on a day that is neither not too hot or too cold,and if the pollen or stigma has been rained on, fa'gedaboudit (!)
Covering the flower that you have just pollinated with a very pliable plasic bag or over covering to protect and prevent any unfavorable disturbance is a very(!) good idea,but do not leave any plastic coverings on the flowers for more than a couple days as the buildup of moisture may cause the tissue to decay.

When I ask someone to collect and send me pollen,I ask them to do the following;
1) remove the entire corolla by carefully snipping it off by using a small cuticle scissors
2) cut the stamens off at the base and place them onto a plastic plate to dry in the sun for several hours,because if you don't do this,the pollen will be too moist and will get moldy
3) place the partially dried pollen loaded stamens into a small plastic or glass container,I use these materials so the pollen does not run off and get absorbed into materials like paper...
4) secure the containers by wrapping them securely with large packaging tape,place them into an appropriate protected container,preferably a small box adequately padded,and ship it overnight or as fast as possible,and after opening use the stamens to paint the stigmas of the flowers you want to pollinate

Any pollen that you want to store for future use ,should be stored in a cool relatively dry place,but I don't like to use pollen that has been refrigerated or stored for over a couple months at most...if any other 'experts' tell you different,and you follow their advice and something doesn't work,don't blame me...

If you can't manage to cross fertilize your plants by following what I have described here in detail,don't blame me...;
If you follow someone elses methods,that work for them on some other type of plant species and it does not work on Ipomoeas,don't blame me...;

I have tried to explain how to cross pollenate Ipomoea(and most other Convolvulaceae species) verbally as well as I can and I hope that you and some other people interested to do cross pollenating find some value in my offerrings.,and if not then,go ask somebody else...e.g.'that' emma...;

yours truly.

P.S. I will remain open to some additional questions,but I don't know that I want to make a four term course out of it...,but ask ;'if you must'...

P.P.S.- If you can't take a joke,then don't ask a prankster...

This message was edited Oct 23, 2006 9:58 PM

Capistrano Beach, CA(Zone 10a)

Are these rules generally applicable to other plants notwithstanding Ron's culpability?

I tried to pollinate some cucurbits of mine and the next day the blossom popped off, ovary and all. I think i may have pressed too hard on the stigma and injured it. But is the part about the pollen still true even though cucurbit flowers produce a much more visible pollen.

Sorry if this is way off topic but this is the best description of hand-pollination i've read and i'd like it to be the definitive one for me. :)


Jacksonville, TX(Zone 8a)

You are so hilarious....
Wow! would I ever love to borrow your brain for a week.
Ok-won't be greedy, one day then.
My head is still spinning absorbing all of the wonderful information that you have shared.
Gosh, you have certainly given Kevin a great new project. I am amazed at how thorough Kevin is.

Ron, if anyone could persuade you to hold a MG seminar, bet you would have standing room. Heck, I'd even fly to NJ for that.

Ron, thanks again for sharing with us.

Shepherd, TX(Zone 8b)

I'm gonna have to try the saving pollen proceedure again...last time I failed miserably, and all the pollen I tried to save promptly grew fungus or someting. I've had great success in pollenating passifloras the way Ron described with the natural brush, but I haven't done too well with much else. I think it's just been too hot so far for anything to successfully 'take'. Thanks for the lesson, Ron. I hope you don't mind if I copy this to some personal notes, with your name on them, of course.

Mysore, India(Zone 10a)

Not for nothing Ron has that screen-name!

Orange, CA(Zone 10b)

Oh, my. That was a fascinating dissertation on theories and techniques of pollenation, Prof. Ron. I read the whole thing out loud the second (!) time to get the full effect of all the exclamation points in parentheses. ;-)

I'm saving this thread for future reference. I know I'll be needing it later.

Thank you.

Netcong, NJ(Zone 5b)

I'm glad that sharing from my experience seems to be of some value and I extend my thanks for any remarks...well intentioned or not(!)...I do hope that Kevin is able to induce his plants to set seed...and when he is able,I hope to hear something(!) from him...Kevin,be sure to let us know the results of your endeavors(!)...;
I have responded to naien's question by Davesmail,and relayed to him that my focus is on the MG Family and all aspects and factors affecting fertilization can potentially vary widely in different families of plants...;
Emma - thanks for your inspirational offerring..and you're definitely a Gas (!) yourself,...but exactly what type(!) of gas remains to be identified...;
QueenB - just a keep on ba'rushin' away...
Dinu - the reason for my choice of webhandles was I saw that there were already alot of people using variations of Morning Glory as well as Ipomoea in their 'handles',and since my interest does extend to the entire MG family...I simply used my first name,followed by my area of wasn't done or meant to imply any particular 'franchise',but I manage to keep myself amused...
Quyen - Thanks for your interest and if you can manage to read what I wrote out loud without any stutterring or faltering,then you're obviously better at my 'style' of transmutational 'toe-tapping' tongue twister'ng than I am...'nah'ooh sah'waang(!) yur paht'nur doh-seey doh'...and I'll catch ya' on the foxtrot,...I'm still workin' off my tarantella...

Regarding intentional hand cross pollenation to produce any potential new types or features in self-fertile plants,be sure to remove the anthers of the pollen receptor/gestational plant,before the anthers open(dehisce) their pollen pouches/sacs to prevent any self-fertilization..this is usually done as soon as possible after the flower(s) opening...

Mantis shrimp eyes can see in more bands of light than any other creature...just something to think about...

2 B kin'tin'you'd...

This message was edited Oct 23, 2006 10:00 PM

Shepherd, TX(Zone 8b)

Interesting note on the mantis--they're my fave bug. I swear they're just little aliens posing as insects. They're just too smart to be a bug.

Goodlettsville, TN(Zone 6a)

Thank you Ron! And thanks to everyone for replying. Sorry to take so long to get back here. I made that first post and then disappeared from the face of the earth for a few days.

I have started attempting hand pollenation between the three plants every morning as per Ron's directions.

And this weekend, I am going to visit a site about 50 miles away that my mother has told me appears to have Ipomoea pandurata growing on it. Hopefully I'll get some non-sibling pollen to use on my three specimins.

Ron, as to your question, "where are the pictures?", I have been taking photos but have not gotten them on the web site. This year is much different from last year in that I am actually gainfully employed now. Unfortunetly for me, gainfull employment has to come before Convolvulacea.

But once I get them on the web site, prepare to be awe struck by Ipomoeas alba, setosa and acuminata!
Strange, but I usually have the most luck with Ipomoea purpurea. This year I have only one really impressive display to show from that species.

Jacksonville, TX(Zone 8a)

Don't forget me when you go visit the Ipomoea pandurata site if there are any you can dig up *-*

Netcong, NJ(Zone 5b)

You may need to get there early(!) or the night before to collect the pollen...a possible alternative would be to take some cuttings of stems with buds that are close to blooming ,put them in water right away to keep them fresh,and let them bloom at your house to get the fresh pollen...that should do the trick...;
Glad to hear from you and let us all know how the cross pollenation and fertilization goes...;
Happy Trails,

Goodlettsville, TN(Zone 6a)


Yes, I'll certainly let you know how it goes. And thanks again for all the advice.


Back in the spring I tried digging about 12 of the I. panduratas that were growing about my yard and moving them to the fence. I'd say less than half of those lived this long. Of those, none have grown more than a few inches and none have flowers.

So either I am doing it wrong, or this species does not like to be transplanted once it gets big enough to be noticed in the lawn. I'd be more than happy to send you something but I just don't think it will work.

First the bad news:
My mother went by the I. pandurata site I mentioned before and saw that the area had been mowed and the vines are gone.

Apparently the Kentucky Department of Transportation is just another heartless bureaucracy laying waste to anything in the path of its mowing crews with no exceptions and no regard for beauty. Sigh.

And now the possible good news:
However, I have a lead on another I. pandurata sighting not far from my house. Hopefully, it really is I. pandurata and hopefully, it has been neither mowed, sprayed nor bulldozed. I'll check it out and report back here.

This message was edited Aug 4, 2005 9:18 PM

Jacksonville, TX(Zone 8a)

Thanks Kevin,
Don't go to a great bother getting a plant to me, I'd just LOVE to have one some day, some year......

If you don't have much luck finding other I. pandurata plants,
maybe you could contact your local horticulturist for some leads!
And, if all else fails, maybe post an ad in the newspaper.


Goodlettsville, TN(Zone 6a)

I checked out that second site this morning. No Potato Vines anywhere!

If anyone knows of Ipomoea pandurata growing within an hour's drive of Nashville TN, please let me know.

That's an interesting idea! I'll look into it.


Franklin, NC(Zone 6b)

Kevin, did you get any seeds to set?

Goodlettsville, TN(Zone 6a)

No. Never got any seeds.

But I did find some plants growing about 20 miles from me. They were in bloom and I was able to collect some pollen. My plants were no longer blooming at by that time, though.

I also took Emma's suggestion and got into contact with a professor at Vanderbilt U who happens to have a patch growing on his property.

So this coming season I'll be trying again with pollen from at least two sources. I'll post the details here.

Franklin, NC(Zone 6b)

Thanks. I did some reading up and the experts found it hard to reconcile how they can be so widespread when they're so picky about pollinators. I guess that makes them more of a challenge. Good luck and keep us posted.

(Zone 7a)

A Big Bump - nice to have found Ron's quintessential post on controlling pollination of MGs - it certainly diminishes the Magoo factor in the process for this "Mrs. Magoo" :)

Kevin, you've inspired me to hot-foot it over to a certain ditch this morning near a reservoir about 45 minutes away where DH and I spied what I think has a good chance of being I. pandurata. At least we can locate it and monitor it for seed (which I'll share if I find any - first dibs to Ron). In my garden this spring, I successfully transplanted a root of I. pandurata I had started from a seed from Ron last summer - it was still dormant and no leaves had yet sprouted, so hopefully later this fall or early next spring I can trowel up a section from the ditch with an eye or two before it sprouts in order to cross-pollinate the one in my garden.

Netcong, NJ(Zone 5b)

Kevin eventually did acquire enough genetic diversity amongst his Ipomoea pandurata patch for some plants to be successfully cross fertilized and to set seeds as notated in the thread here



(Zone 7a)

Thanks - interesting about that gall, and speaking about one of its possible causes being a virus, I have a question. Years ago, I noticed that the stem of one of my lilies looked like a wide, flat board, with linear corrugations running up and down its length. And then, a few years after that, on one of our walks, I noticed a blackberry stem with the same kind of malformation. Evidently, it's known as a kind of "fasciitis" with a virus being a possible cause. Well, it's fascinating to me that such different genera can be affected so similarly. Ron, have you or anyone else ever noticed anything like this in morning glories? MGs seem so "mutable" that I'd be surprised if it never happened.

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