Mahonia X media 'charity'

Discussion in 'Plant Propagation' started by Doug Swan, Apr 22, 2008.

  1. Doug Swan

    Doug Swan Member

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    Hi there. New to the list and very excited about having a resource for sharing information on all things related to plants.

    I recently bought a Mahonia x media "charity" for my deck. It's a nice addition to the stuff I already have there. One of the things I was told when I purchased it is that it blooms in winter, whereas our local Oregon Grape varieties tend to bloom in very late winter/early spring. If I want to get fruit on this thing, it needs to be pollinated. It's certainly possible that I may find a flowering Ore. Grape during that time of the year, but also possible I won't. I'd really like to ensure that it has fruit each year. My question:

    Is it possible for me to cut some of the flowers of the Oregon Grape in my yard, place them in a baggy, freeze it, and then thaw it out and shake it over the blooms when the Mahonia is ready for pollination? Alternatively, any ideas on how to approach this problem?

    Thanks so much for the benefit of your experiences. Doug
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2008
  2. Gordo

    Gordo Active Member 10 Years

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    Hi Doug,
    I think you'll find that this plant will form fruit regardless of pollination, at least mine seems to. I'm not sure, though, whether the fruit fully ripens as it does in other Mahonia species. Also, since this plant is a hybrid, it's not clear to me whether or not any fruit produced might be viable or fully formed, regardless of if a suitable pollination was available. Others here might know more about this.
     
  3. Doug Swan

    Doug Swan Member

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    Man, would have responded a lot sooner to this had I been able to log in, but I've been shut out of the system for the past 24 hours.... until Daniel came to my rescue.

    Hi Gordo!

    The Mahonia X media Charity is actually the most spectacularly fruited of the "Oregon Grape" Asian variety. This is a plant that puts on a very impressive flowering show in winter, then turns to "grapes" that literally cover and cascade over the entire plant. It's really quite impressive. I've been assured that shaking the flower over the blooms will pollinated (none of the Asian varieties are self-pollinating). The root of my question is around the freezing of the flower and if that would cause cell rupture resulting in sterility of the pollen. I have no idea and neither does anyone at any of the nurseries I go to. I may respost this on the general list, hoping to hit a bigger audience. Thanks so much for responding!
     
  4. growest

    growest Active Member 10 Years

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    Hi there Doug--seems you've posed a tough question. A bit of searching on the subject of pollen longevity, freezing, etc. yields the sense that different plants have quite different storage potential, or lack thereof, re their pollen.

    So, most likely no-one really knows, since there hasn't been enough reason to do a scientific study of this species. You would be breaking ground then, so perhaps you could try drying and/or freezing some mahonia pollen different ways and see if anything "works". Silica gel to lower humidity either at room temp or in the deep freeze would be one thing to try.

    On the other hand, Gordo seems to get fruit in our winters anyway. And I can't myself remember seeing fruit on the landscape specimens around here, I'll try to have a look as I drive around today. The commercial landscapes I'm thinking of certainly haven't had anyone fussing with pollinating the flowers, so I'll see if any mini-grapes are evident at this point or not.
     
  5. Gordo

    Gordo Active Member 10 Years

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    Here is how the fruit on my plant appears today. A M. x media 'Winter Sun', planted in another location is similar. Note that each of these fruits is only about pea sized.



    Mahonia x media.jpg
     
  6. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    I suspect the trick would be to track down a Mahonia plant breeder. I've had a look through the first half-dozen pages of results on a search for Mahonia pollen in Google scholar, and didn't come up with anything on pollen longevity / storage / etc. (I did learn though the Mahonia and Berberis have morphologically different pollen than the rest of the Berberidaceae.

    By the way, our plant here in front of the Shop in the Garden looks much like Gordo's at the moment - covered in fruit. However, we have more than a few other Mahonia species and cultivars in close enough proximity that cross-pollination would certainly be possible.
     
  7. Doug Swan

    Doug Swan Member

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  8. Doug Swan

    Doug Swan Member

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    Thanks, Daniel. Good suggestions! I appreciate your taking the time to do a bit of digging--I'm hit or miss with that kind of thing.
     
  9. Gordo

    Gordo Active Member 10 Years

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    Actually Doug, I just can't remember how these fruits mature - I'll be watching more closely this year. The question in my mind (and perhaps yours as well) is whether these fruits would be a source of viable seed if pollinated from a separate source, and if so pollinated, would the fruit develop differently as is sometimes the case.
     
  10. Doug Swan

    Doug Swan Member

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    My understanding is that seeds will not produce the same plant (that's what the people at my local nursery told me when I bought it). I've also done a few searches and those seem to verify that it will go "native." Pity, because the Oregon Grapes that have been planted down here (seattle along I-5) have spread spectacularly! The sides of the road are now mostly full of blooming grapes instead of the pesky Scotch Broom that is so invasive and prevalent. Then again, in a few years we may be complaining about those pesky Oregon Grapes! ; )
     
  11. Doug Swan

    Doug Swan Member

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    Sorry for posting yet again, but I did find some interesting info. The "Charity" will always fruit. That surprised me. The problem is that if the plant isn't pollinated, it will not produce viable fruit (surprised to find out that these are actually edible AND have antibiotic properties mostly used in derma infection!). So.... you always get fruit, but the fruit never matures if it isn't pollinated. If you look at some online images, the grapes are supposed to be pretty large (about the size of a blackberry) and a deep purple (grape) color.

    All of the plants in this sub-genus appear to be VERY easy to propogate with cuttings. Cut a stem, remove most of the leaves, and stick it in the ground (either herbaceous stem cuttings or softwood cuttings). Nothing about using root hormone, but I'd imagine that the process might be a bit quicker through the use of some.
     
  12. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    I not sure every specimen of 'Charity' fruits. Being a woody shrub it would never produce herbaceous stem cuttings. Googling "mahonia propagation" should turn up more information.
     
  13. growest

    growest Active Member 10 Years

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    Vegetative propagation of mahonias is by leaf cuttings...

    Other barberies, yes, the stem cuttings are fairly routine.
     

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