Friday, May 8, 2015

Pecan pollination season has started

    The more I look at the terminals of our pecan trees the more pistillate flowers I see. The 2015 crop is promising to be a big one.
     During this early phase of the pollination season, pecan cultivars with the protogynous flowering habit have pistillate flowers that are fully formed and ready to accept pollen (Lakota pistillate flowers pictured at right).

     In contrast, pistillate flowers of protandrous cultivars are just now starting to form at the tips of new shoots (Gardner pistillate flower cluster pictured at left). It will take about two more weeks before these pistillate flowers will be ready to accept pollen.

    Pistillate flowers are only one half of the pollination equation. This year, our trees seemed to be covered with catkins, the tree's male flowers. Within every primary bud on a pecan stem you will find a central vegetative bud flanked by two ancillary buds that produce catkins. Three catkins are produced from each ancillary bud (photo at right). A catkin is actually a long spike of numerous male flowers. As catkins mature, the leafy bract of each flower opens up to reveal 3 pollen capsules. These pollen capsules turn from green to yellow just before they pop open to release millions of pollen grains into the air. The photo below shows catkins that have already shed some of pollen this spring (catkins from the protandrous Faith cultivar). Note that once pollen is release the pollen capsule turns dark brown in color.