Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - September 08, 2008

From: Wasco, CA
Region: California
Topic: Propagation
Title: Altering the flowering time of Phacelia tanacetifolia
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I have been using Phacelia tanacetifolia as a forage plant in a 1 acre and 6 acre enclosure to mass rear the Blue Orchard Bee,(BOB), Osmia lignaria for use as a managed pollinator of almonds in California. I would like advice on how to advance flowering of the Phacelia so that it is in bloom roughly at the same time as almonds - mid February to mid March. There are two reasons for wanting to do this: 1) BOB's do better at the cooler temperatures prevailing when the almonds are in flower and 2)it means that populations reared on Phacelia are roughly in developmental synchrony with almond bees and thus can be processed at the same time. I hope you can help. Best wishes, Chris O'Toole

ANSWER:

Your question is reasonable, but it's largely outside the scope of our work.  

The flowering time of plants is often a complex function of the effects of weather, moisture, and night-length.  Depending on the species, some or all of these factors may play a role in flower bud initiation and development.  Greenhouse growers have for years taken advantage of these trigger mechanisms to artificially produce the conditions necessary to induce flowering at a desired time.  Christmas poinsettias, Christmas cactuses, Easter lilies and Valentine's Day bulbs are all plants that are induced to flower at a particular time by controlling temperature, soil moisture or night-length in a way to achieve the desired results.

Controlling environmental conditions in the field is another matter altogether.  In fact, the complexity and cost associated with such an endeavor seems too great to attempt.

However, it might be possible to approach the problem from another direction.  The flowering response of any plant species is at least partially hardwired in that species genetic code.  If you wish to induce Phacelia tanacetifolia to flower earlier, it might be possible to identify the earliest-flowering plants in a wild population, cross and re-cross those early-bloomers through several generation and thus develop a stable population of early-flowering plants.  Then again, that may not work.

The problem sounds like one that would make an excellent and potentially very beneficial scientific project for a graduate student.  You might talk to your county's Extension Service agent about who might be interested in organizing and conducting such an experiment there in California.

 

More Propagation Questions

Blooming but not berrying American bittersweet from Pendleton IN
May 29, 2013 - I have had a bittersweet plant for years, it blooms but not berries. How do I tell if it is male or female so I can buy the opposite? It is currently blooming.
view the full question and answer

Planting yucca seeds in Illinois
August 17, 2008 - My neighbor gave me a few pods (5) off of her Yucca plant which have lost its bloom for the year, how do I transplant them, in the ground or root them in water first?
view the full question and answer

Replacing Drought-Stricken Cedars
January 16, 2012 - Hello, I live in Williamson County on a couple acres. We have several dead cedars as a result of drought; we're reluctant to cut them down because many of them provide a friendly barrier between us...
view the full question and answer

Propagation and transplanting of Vernonia lindheimeri
April 10, 2007 - I have located a wooly ironweed plant and have taken some seeds to start. This is the only ironweed I have seen. Any suggestions on how to start the seed? Also, if development of the property appea...
view the full question and answer

Care and propagation of American Beautyberry
July 20, 2007 - We have an American Beautyberry growing on our lot. Before we fenced the backyard it was browsed by deer, and survived by wedging itself between the fence and a juniper tree. How can we: 1. encou...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.