Re: HYB: Saliva, Poison
- Subject: Re: HYB: Saliva, Poison
- From: John I Jones <email@example.com>
- Date: Thu, 04 Feb 1999 10:11:07 -0800
From: John I Jones <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Jan there was a discussion on the Iris-L a couple of years ago about the
> problems hybridizers were having with their stomachs after doing a
> certain amount of hybridizing. It turned out that pollen has oxalic acid
> on it which is poisonous for humans. The conclusion was that new
> toothpicks should be used for each flower.
Well yes and no. Lets recap a little:
Mike Moller wrote:
> << Please, EVERYONE, do not use the toothpick method for hybridizing,
> UNLESS you use a new toothpick each & every time. Remember always that
> the iris plant, all parts, contain oxalic acid in the form of needle
> sharp crystals. Oxalic acid is poisonous and can cause severe stomach
> upset in small amounts. Some years ago there was a story making the
> rounds that a well known hybridizer of the time applied pollen to each
> flower with a single toothpick that was returned to the mouth each time
> so that the saliva would destroy the pollen grains. This individual
> suffered from stomach pains which the MDs were unable to diagnose.
> Shortly thereafter another hybridizer was suffering the same stomach
> problems and realized that is was a direct result of using the toothpick
> method. >>
> This story is true!. The Famous hybridizer was Neva Sexton, who died of an
> unknown stomach problem. Tom Magee learned hybridizing from Neva and used the
> very same method. The same year she died, he was also hospitalized with an
> unknown stomach problem. Tom lived and he is the one putting out this story.
> Needless to say, he does not clean toothpicks in his mouth anymore!
And Bill Shear wrote:
> I'm afraid I'd need a little more data than Tom Magee's "realization"
> before attributing Neva Sexton's death and his stomach problems to the
> ingestion of minute amounts of oxalic acid in iris pollen! Oxalic acid is
> a very common phytochemical, and you would get thousands of times larger a
> dose from eating a green salad than you would from almost any amount of
> iris pollen.
> How about those hundreds (maybe) of hybridizers who DIDN'T get stomach
> problems from ingesting pollen?
> The common house-plant called 'Dumb Cane' is very high in oxalic acid. A
> little bit of the juice on the tongue can temporarily paralyze the vocal
> cords (hence the name). But even if iris pollen were pure oxalic acid (and
> of course we need some evidence that oxalic acid is found in pollen), you'd
> need to suck in large quantities of it to get any appreciable affect.
> Did either Sexton or Magee experience vocal cord paralysis after licking
> Sounds like the iris equivalent of an "urban legend."
BUT more importantly for hybridizing, Sharon McAllister wrote:
> Although I hadn't heard about the
> health hazards you mentioned, I was taught NEVER to just clean a toothpick in my
> mouth and reuse it because saliva doesn't kill pollen immediately and it could
> contaminate the next cross. Ironically, it was a doctor who suggested the
> minute amounts of iris pollen I might ingest while hybridizing were probably
> good for me. I do apologize for including Gene Hunt's comment about the
> protein content of pollen, though -- without cleary indicating it was a joke.
> Gene was known for not wasting a single grain of pollen.
> Anyway, here's the detailed procedure for the cautious hybridizer:
> 1. Outfit a tool kit (mine is a large tackle box) with clean condiment cups
> & lids, several sets of tweezers, indelible markers, masking tape, tags -- and
> a box of toothpicks.
> 2. Harvest the anthers with tweezers, place them in a CLEAN condiment cup,
> write the name or number on a piece of masking tape and stick it on the cup.
> 3. Take a new toothpick out of the box, moisten it with saliva if necessary,
> then use it to transfer the pollen from the harvested anther to the stigmatic
> After the first cross, the toothpick is moist enough to pick up more pollen, dry
> enough to store safely in the pollen cup -- at least long enough to tag each
> cross. I normally continue working with that cup until I run out of pollen or
> flowers to put it on. Then DISCARD the toothpick. There are better ways to
> save money and the environment than recycling toothpicks!
Personally I have never had any stomach or (as many people would gladly
testify) speaking or throat problems from iris pollen.....
John | "There be dragons here"
| Annotation used by ancient cartographers
| to indicate the edge of the known world.
USDA zone 8/9 (coastal, bay)
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Fremont, California, USA
President, Westbay Iris Society
Director, Region 14 of the AIS
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