Pollen collection/stubborn anthers

I have some questions about the situation where pollen anthers dry up but release only part of the pollen they actually contain (when these stubborn anthers are physically crushed by a finger crushing them against the glass of the jar they are contained in, a whole lot of extra pollen emerges, but a whole lot of it sticks to the finger and does not brush off, and is wasted anyway).


1.Am I damaging the pollens by finger crushing these stubborn dry anthers?

2.If I dry the anthers in direct sunlight (instead of indoors as I do) am I going to get faster more complete pollen release (I am thinking of doing this as an alternative to finger crushing stubborn anthers)?

3.Will direct sunlight hitting pollen anthers in a jar cause the pollen to die, or is it ok to use?


It’s better to dry the anthers on a piece of paper (better air circulation) with a smooth surface, and then just tip them down the slightly troughed or creased paper into the jar after they’re dry and have released their pollen. If a lot of pollen sticks on the paper, you can make the paper into a tube and thump it with your fingers while holding the lower end over the jar. That will get nearly all the pollen into the jar. If you’re greedy, you can go back and use a pollination brush to get what’s left.

Sometimes if you harvest the anthers too early they won’t be quite mature enough and will not release well no matter what you do to them when they dry. Just do the best you can. I regularly rub the anthers between my fingers on those that don’t give much pollen, just to get the last bit. I even drizzle the scrunched anthers over the pistils just to get a few more grains of pollen where they might do some good. And of course there are some varieties that hate to release their pollen under any circumstances. Again, do the best you can. I don’t think there is any one method that will take care of all circumstances, but with most varieties the pollen will be most abundant and most easily released if you collect it just before the flower opens. With varieties that release early, get the anthers before they release the pollen, of course.

If you have lots of pollen and you plan to use it right away, you can put a fine mesh between two jars and shake the pollen against the upper side of the mesh (holding the 2 jars mouth to mouth, maybe with tape) until it is all or mostly in the lower jar. If you’re not planning to use the pollen right away, it seems to keep better in the anthers, to be knocked loose as needed by banging the jar against the heel of the hand.

You’d probably find some practical and useful suggestions in the RHA booklet The Next Step if you can get your bank to spring you a loan so you can afford it.



I will do as you suggest and dry on paper first, thank you also for your other great tips.

It is true, I had not purchased these books when I joined up. I seem to fall asleep reading books…but I love cyber chat…(I am expecting RHA books, bricks, and maybe a few thorny roses to arrive overhead any minute now, via USA…LOL… I am ducking for cover).


I should add, in all seriousness, of course the RHA resources undoubtedly would be of great value!

George, Ralph Moore told me years ago many roses refuse to release pollen, so he dried the anthers then ground them in a morter and pestle. I’ve done that ever since. I had no luck getting anything from Basye’s Purple in my climate until I ground the dried anthers. Of course, what I got, I didn’t want, but I got something. I don’t dry it in direct sunlight as it appears to me it over heats, at least in the intensity of my climate. I’d collect pollen, they dry it spread out on sheets of paper on my dining room table over night. The next day, it’s easy to grind the dried anthers then dump them into the respective baby food jar. We’re usually dry enough for over night to be long enough, but if humidity is high, it may take a second day.

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Hi Kim.

I do find it rather shocking that grinding anthers in such a manner leads to successful pollinations! It seems a brilliant solution to the problem of “stubborn anthers”!

I have some questions about this, if you don’t mind:

*I am guessing that you routinely grind all of your dried pollens regardless of the ease of pollen release?

*How do you prevent contamination if you are grinding more than one vareital’s pollen in the same day with the same mortar and pestle (do you just whash the mortar and pestle, and them move onto the new pollen?)

*Can this pollen grinding material be frozen and used successfully later on?

I use plastic pill bottles to hold the anthers/pollen. During the drying stage the anthers are in the cover. If the pollen has not released, I put the anthers back into the plastic container and:

“Most pollen will mature in 24 to 48 hours. If the pollen has not been released by 48 hours, try crushing the anthers with a flat blade chromed screwdriver. If pollen is then released it shows clearly against the chromed surface of the screwdriver. I then pollinate using the screwdriver to deliver the pollen.”


Link: home.roadrunner.com/~kuska/pollencollection.htm

Yes George, I do grind pollen routinely. I simply wipe out the mortar to clean it. I guess there could be cross contamination but it isn’t that great an issue for me. You could wash it out if wanted, but I don’t go that far. I figure if there is contamination, that would probably help prevent hip abortion because I often make crosses which probably won’t work anyway. I don’t know about freezing it as I’ve never tried it.

Thank you Dr Kuska, and thank you again Kim.

I will have to try grinding certain anthers this year. It seems like some would never want to release them. I blame it partially on the climate. For example I have always had a hard time getting Rise N Shine to release pollen. I swear everything else on the flowers says it is time but those anthers won’t release hardly anything.

As far as freezing I would think that if you dried them out first then froze them and only crush them when you brought them out it would be fine. But that is my guess. I would think the anthers would help protect them a little from water getting in the pollen.

To dry anthers for freezing I leave them in direct sunlight for a day or two in open, clear vials held in a shallow basket placed on a glass picnic table. The basket allows for lots of air to flow around the vials and the glass stays cool in direct sunlight (don’t use metal trays to hold the vials or the anthers will fry).

Once the anthers appear to be dry the vials get placed, open, in a small plastic food container along with a few heaping tablespoons of silica gel, which I buy at a craft store. I put the lid on the container and place it about six inches below a halogen desk lamp and leave it overnight. The IR from the lamp drives off the residual moisture which gets captured by the silica gel. Then I pour the anthers into a small polyethylene baggie and put the baggies in the freezer in a sealed container (no silica gel). I used to just cap the vials and put them in the freezer but these small baggies save lots of space.

The silica gel is reusable, heat it to just above the boiling point of water in a toaster oven for a little while.

I think your glass drying method may work for cool climates. Here, today, just north of Los Angeles, though the air was cool, the direct sun dried out potted bottlebrush to the point of wilting. I’d think it would be safer in warmer climates to still not dry pollen in direct sun. It gets QUITE hot QUITE quickly!

It gets QUITE hot QUITE quickly!

No doubt you are correct, Kim. The glass table was the best solution I found for my own circumstances because it never gets hot even in late July when we get our hottest weather. This got me to thinking about what the differences are exactly between here (CT) and there (CA). It turns out that you get 25% more direct sunlight than we do in some months.

In wet weather I dry the anthers by putting them in the food container with the silica gel under the lamp without first drying them in sunlight. It takes a bit longer and a bit more silica gel. For freezing pollen the most important factor is that it be bone dry.

I use small glass containers on the window sill. The sun warms up the pollen but does not fry it because it is indoors. However, this is in May/June in the PNW. I am sure it would fry in the likes of Arizona or such :stuck_out_tongue: I have tried outdoor drying. It just ruins the pollen entirely. If the pollen is being stubborn, I just crush it with the end tip of the paint brush I am using. If I see yellow dust on the black handle tip, I am good to go :)If not, I throw the pollen away and wash out my container so that I can collect new pollen.