Peak Flowering Season 2016

seven-flowers-raceme-1
Vanilla raceme with 7 open flowers.

This morning I came across two racemes in the vanillery that had seven open blossoms on each of them! This is really quite unusual.

When the vanilla vines are really growing strongly, the flowering racemes can come out double or triple or more. Usually, the raceme is a single stalk of flowers with 1 – 20 flower buds on it. The buds will open usually one at a time over a period of several weeks until they have all opened.

When there is a huge amount of vitality in the vine, though, the raceme can include branches of racemes, making it possible for a large number of flowers to  sprout from a single node. This is a very good thing, because each node can only produce once (if at all—most don’t): and it will be either either a new vine or a flower raceme.

Of course, not all the flowers on a raceme should be pollinated, it’s important to only pollinate as much as will develop into full-size pods. Pollinate too many, and you’ll end up with a lot of uselessly-small pods. But with so much vitality in the vine, the number of flowers you can pollinate increases. We’ll probably get 15 full-size pods on these big racemes, while a typical raceme will usually only produce 5-7.

raceme-branching
This is one of the big racemes early in the season, you can see it branching at several places.

Vanilla blossoming seems to come in waves: you’ll have days where the blossoming is sparse, and days like today, where nearly every raceme on all the vines has one or more flowers blossoming. I don’t know what governs these cycles, perhaps weather, perhaps the moon. We already know that the vines are quite sensitive to lunar cycles.

This morning, I pollinated 49 flowers in the vanillery. An impressively large number considering it’s age…this is really the first year we’re having flowers on vines that grew in the vanillery. Perviously, all the flowering was done by vines that were a couple of years old when they were transplanted in. The vanillery is finally coming in, but this is only the beginning.

I say today is the peak of the 2016 flowering season because in all, I pollinated 153 flowers today. Looking at the racemes out there now, I doubt we’ll have as big a day again this season. All the racemes that are going to emerge have done so by now.

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