Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Lime Tree is Expecting

One of my great pleasures in life is a well-mixed mojito.  It is such a fascination of mine, I have spent quite some time tinkering with the recipe.  Key ingredients are homegrown mojito mint, and homegrown key limes.

Last year, the dwarf key lime tree gave me its first crop of about 8-10 limes.  This year, although the tree set at least that many little limes, they all fell off or disappeared as the weather went from chilly to hot.  So, I was particularly excited when the tree bloomed again, just as I brought it indoors for the season.

Now, I will do a lot of things for my plants.  I water them to simulate rain, I use grow lights as needed to supplement sun, and I even run a little fan to help seedlings learn to deal with wind.  But I was a little concerned when I thought I was going to have to become a surrogate bee and help the lime tree have baby limes.

Last year, I dutifully brushed the pollen from the stamens of the flowers and transferred it to other flowers in the hope of getting a winter crop of limes.  Little did I know, my efforts were for naught, because my flowers were all "male;" that is, they only had stamens.  In order to get limes, you need flowers with a stigma, the little bit that looks kind of like a lollypop sticking up in the center of the flower.  (If you think I knew this ahead of time, let me tell you that I spent quite some time Googling like mad when the plant bloomed this year.)

The sources I consulted suggest that a citrus tree will pollinate itself as long as you have flowers with stigmas and stamens, but I wasn't going to take anything to chance in my wind-free and bee-free environment, so into the dining room I went, humming Barry White tunes and wielding a paint brush.  I transferred pollen from stamens to stigmas and hoped for the best.

Sure enough, my lime tree now has the characteristic green swellings at the base of the stigma in the flowers.  If all goes well, I hope to have a crop of at least a half a dozen key limes by spring.  The blessed event is much anticipated.
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