Re: HYB: Saliva, Poison
- Subject: Re: HYB: Saliva, Poison
- From: Glenn Simmons <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Sun, 07 Feb 1999 18:01:47 -0600
From: Glenn Simmons <email@example.com>
John I Jones wrote:
> From: John I Jones <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> email@example.com 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.....
I know that John likes us all to edit "reply-to" messages to eliminate unimportant or
repetitive statements. I apologize for not doing so but I didn't really see where to
do the "snipping!" Also part of my comment is on the way John put this together. You
did a good job John! Having several letters in one place to read and compare is
I have been following the pollen/stigmatic lip thread with much interest. I don't
think anyone will ever catch me intentionally putting pollen in my mouth, I use locking
tweezers! :) However, the comments about moistening the stigmatic lips was
enlightening! I had a lot of trouble trying to cross two irises last year, either
those lips were dry or the pollen wasn't when the lips were! I only got 8 seeds from
about a dozen cross attempts. I have actually learned something just sitting here and
listening! Bet I don't have this problem this year. Thanks all
Glenn & Linda Simmons
Springfield, Southwest Missouri, USDA Zone 6
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