Friday, 5 February 2010

the birds and the bees... and Po.

Birds do it, bees do it, even educated trees* do it... It's not that hard to have nookie is it?

Wrong. Plant sex is the most difficult thing I have ever done. And, erm, that is not as dodgy as it sounds.

It is a well known fact that plants have sex via the air, with the help of wind, bees, flies, etc. Right? Some plants prefer to self pleasure instead and mate with themselves and that seems to work well for them too.

The plants I work with prefer themselves and get it on very well and we are all happy. Until we need to mate one plant with another to study gene interactions... that is when our plants need a facilitator. And it would appear that the facilitator is now me. Oh joy.

The fertile bits of the plant are in the flower bud. Now the flower bud I am working with is about the size of a ... flea? Maybe if if you split a rice grain in two along the length, then take one of the skinny bits and chop it into about 4 pieces, then that would be about right.

The bits of interest ie the male and female bits, are much smaller. I cannae see them, Cap'n!

Basically you are supposed to take a pair of fine forceps and dissect the bud pulling back a petal, (which looks like a white speck) taking out all the male bits (basically invisible) so they don't fertilise themselves, and then take a flower from the daddy plant and rub its pollen all over the mommy plant. No problem.

So far in the week that I have been introduced to this torture I have decapitated about twenty plants and produced no crosses of any worth whatsoever. I am not a surgeon. Even a surgeon would struggle to perform surgery on a speck, right?

Someone very kind is now trying to teach me how to do this horrendous process with a microscope to ease the heinousness. But my boss told me to do it with the naked eye. If I do, there will be no plants alive at the end of it.

Will it help if I wear a bee suit?

*artistic license


Cam said...

In short...Plants have threesomes?

With different tribes of the animal kingdom?

Wierd. :)

6000 said...

My male bits are virtually invisible and I have two lovely kids.

po said...

Cam: plants have multiplesomes. There is some dodgy shit going on in the air.

6000: hehe ok you comment just made my day :) thanks for making me laugh

Tamara said...

*gobsmacked by 6000's comment*


So I'll see you in the kitchen at McDonald's then? Bring your pen and paper and we can brainstorm between the burger flipping.

po said...

Tamara: yay! But can we make it Steers? Their burgers taste better. Actually I did work at Steers once!

I sonder if frying burgers is good for inspiration? Actually I find that feeling miserable is quite good for inspiration if you happen to be going for a tragic sad story of doom!

Luke said...

I think that your boss needs to have his head checked...How does he expect you to do all the cross-pollinations without a microscope!?

What species is this btw?

po said...

Luke: Arabidopsis, and I agree he is mad, but then he is really busy at the mo and didn't have time to help me so to be honest I was making up it up as I went along... until I found the nice person who showed me how she did it. But my boss can do it with his naked eye!

Gillian said...

Don't forget the bee wings.

Helen said...

Maybe some mood music? Soft lighting?

Gotta love the way scientists always pick really tricky species as a wonderful "model species"... I mean couldn't they just use hibiscus?

po said...


Helen: good point: hibiscus has enormous bits! I remember pulling the flowers apart as a kid, there was some kind of "undressing the lady" story there, a bit porno now that I think of it.

Damaria Senne said...

You made me think of "Honey, I shrunk the kids." Maybe your boss has the laser machine thingie would come in useful, so you can be the spec that helps the two bits come together. If not, a microscope it is.

LadyFi said...

Oh goodness - this is seriously hilarious! '

Oh.. and good luck! You'll need a strong microscope!

Kirsty said...

Oh, gross. I knew you were a biologist, but really, come on now. It's animal sex all the way (and I mean that in a totally non-bestial way)!

po said...

Damaria: haha ~I wish I really do. That would be awesome. Imagine if I could dissect the flower if it was bigger than me! It would be so easy.

Ladyfi: and steady hands. I was never meant to be surgeon.

Kirsty: I assume crossing animals is somewhat easier! But what about pandas? It seems to be impossible to get them to mate? Maybe they need a facilitator?