Pollinating Heliamphora can be difficult, since the stigma stops being receptive before the anthers are ready to release their pollen. The anthers are stimulated to do so by insect vibration, which adds a further complication. Fortunately, pollen from one flower can be collected and stored to be used on the next. Two main methods have been proposed: using a tuning fork to ďbuzzĒ the pollen out of the anthers, or to remove the anthers, tear them up with forceps, and collect the pollen that way. Iíve had problems with both methods, so I advocate combining them in the way described below. I donít think Iím presenting anything new here; early (first?) hybridizer Bob Zeimer (1979), Matthias Teichert (2006), and Butch Tincher (2010) have done a great job of documenting their pollination techniques in various places. Iíve definitely benefitted from their help, so I hope synthesizing all of this in one place can help someone else.
Iím not a fan of the standard tuning fork method, because I think itís physically difficult to catch/collect the pollen while it is being buzzed out this way. At least for me, it is much easier to collect the pollen if you buzz the anthers after removing them from the flower. There are other benefits to anther removal, which Iíll get to in a second.
Removing the anthers and tearing them up with forceps has never yielded pollen for me, no matter which species or time after opening I tried. I tried examining the bits under a microscope repeatedly, in futile and frustrating attempts to find pollen. Butch has shown that the trick is to remove the anthers, let them air dry overnight, and then tear them up. Iíve always grown my plants in very humid conditions; apparently it was too humid to allow the anthers to actually release much pollen. Combining all of the foregoing (air drying the anthers overnight, tearing them, and then buzzing) has consistently allowed me to obtain way more pollen than ever before.
Here is an illustrated walkthrough:
Anther removal: The timing is important. The flower opened several days earlier. You need to wait until the anthers have changed their orientation relative to the style, so that they are roughly perpendicular as in this photo. I like to hedge my bets, so I took half one day and half the next. If you are nervous about the timing, just remove one or two, and see if the method yields pollen. If not, wait and repeat until you hit paydirt.
Here is a before and after: On the left are freshly removed anthers, and on the right are desiccated ones I removed the day before. When you dry them overnight, just let them sit uncovered on the counter so that air can circulate.
Take each dry anther and tear it. I prefer to break it once along the transverse axis, rather than the long axis. However, if you donít get much pollen one way, try the other.
Strike the tuning fork and then touch the forceps, rather than the anther. Do this repeatedly with each anther, because repeated tingles will be rewarded with lots of pollen. Hereís a video:
In the video, the pollen is falling on a piece of paper, but using a plate or mirror is better. Here you can see the pollen produced by one anther that was buzzed repeatedly:
Hereís the pollen from half of the flowerís anthers:
If you are storing the pollen for later, use the razor blade to scrape it all off of the plate or mirror and onto parchment or wax paper. I have successfully used refrigerated and frozen pollen. Freezing seems to work better.