The pollination process of vanilla beans

The pollination process of vanilla beans

Mexico is said to be the country of origin for the vanilla orchid. When an orchid arrives here, the Melipona bee, a unique species of bee, naturally pollinates it. You probably already know that several other nations, including Tahiti, Hawaii, Indonesia, Madagascar, and Papua New Guinea, now produce vanilla in large quantities for trade. The orchids are manually pollinated in these other places, including a few in Mexico. 

Why do nations manually pollinate vanilla plants? 

The Melipona bee's heroic efforts have played a significant role in the survival of Vanilla bean. The vanilla orchid can only be pollinated by this particular bee, according to knowledge. Because the Vanilla Orchid blossoms are hermaphrodites, they have both female and male reproductive organs. The bloom is unable to self-pollinate due to a particular tissue (known as the rostellum) that actually covers the stem. Another thing to think about is how difficult it is to get at the pollen on a vanilla orchid. As a result, the typical honeybee cannot access the pollen. For this reason, the Melipona bee was highly prized in its natural environment. Last but not least, the flower only blooms for one day a year and is only visible for a few hours. 

It became necessary to implement a hand-pollination procedure since vanilla orchids are now grown in numerous areas across the world (primarily in sub-tropical and warm tropical climates). The vanilla orchids might have vanished and gone extinct if there had been no human involvement. 

The vanilla flowering process by hand 

Because the Melipona Bee can only be found in Mexico, every other country that crops vanilla must depend on human hand-pollination, which is a very labor-intensive technique. Between the months of October and January, vanilla plants are often hand pollinated. 

Let's first discuss the origins of the concept of hand pollination before describing how the hand-pollination procedure for vanilla works. The method was developed by a young man named Edmond Albuis in the middle of the 1800s on a small island in the Indian Ocean. In doing so, he discovered a technique that is still in use today and resolved a botanical enigma. 

How is vanilla pollinated? 

Flowers from vanilla orchids are formed in groups, and they typically bloom one after the other. As a result, one orchid might bloom one day, another the next, and so forth. But as we've already mentioned, a Vanilla Orchid only blooms once a year, and only for a short period of time. The flower's pollination window is immediately following the first several hours of blooming. 

Which do you require? 

 Just a toothpick, nothing more. 

Step 1: Unfortunately, you must cut open the lovely flower. This makes it simpler for you to get to the plant's reproductive parts. 

Step 2: To cut the flower, stick the toothpick into the base of the flower and pull it upwards. Or you can just carefully carry out this task by hand. 

Step 3: Next, locate the flap and the pollen once the reproductive system has been exposed (also referred to as the column). The pollen is located in the upper portion of the flower that is folded over the flap (the male component of the flower). 

Step 4: Use your toothpick to raise up the flap and fold the male part away so that the male and female sections of the plant may make contact. This will allow you to hand pollinate the vanilla flower. Now that you have presumably successfully pollinated the flower, be careful to only lightly press it. 

Step 5: The appearance of the beans will tell you in about two to three weeks whether or not you successfully pollinated the blossom. Those that were successfully pollinated will appear firm, swell, and change color to a striking greenish hue. Those that were unpollinated will turn a little limp and yellow. 

The vanilla orchid only flowers once a year for a few hours. The flower must be pollinated as quickly as possible, ideally during the first few hours after opening. 


When flowers are pollinated by hand, workers commit themselves to doing so as many times as possible during the best window of time. The crop could be significantly hampered by insufficient pollination, therefore there is no room for error.