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Re: HYB: Saliva, Poison

  • Subject: Re: HYB: Saliva, Poison
  • From: John I Jones <jijones@ix.netcom.com>
  • Date: Thu, 04 Feb 1999 10:11:07 -0800

From: John I Jones <jijones@ix.netcom.com>

dlouis@dynamicro.on.ca wrote:
> 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 
>   toothpicks?  
>  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 
>  lip.   
>  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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