Plant Systematics and Evolution

, Volume 298, Issue 1, pp 239–250 | Cite as

Reproductive characterization and preliminary studies on controlled breeding of Annatto (Bixa orellana L.)

  • Nisha Joseph
  • E. A. SirilEmail author
  • G. M. Nair
Original Article


Annatto (Bixa orellana L.) is an important dye-yielding medium-sized tree occurring in the tropics. Investigations aimed at elucidating the reproductive characters as well as establishing a set of breeding parameters for genetic improvement of B. orellana was carried out. Records on pollen/ovule ratios of annatto showed that this species is xenogamous. The acetolyzed pollen of B. orellana was tricolporate. The fluorochromatic test showed 95% pollen viability. The viability of the pollen grains decreased sharply after 4 h from anther dehiscence. The optimum time range for artificial pollination was standardized between 12:00 and 13:00 h. A high in vitro germination rate (92%) of freshly collected pollen was recorded in modified Brewbaker’s medium with 15% sucrose. Resource allocation studies showed that the construction of each flower cost 1.162 g. The floral vegetative cost was 75%. Of the total allocation, 21% was spent by the stamens. Based on identified reproductive characters, controlled pollination experiments were conducted by selecting four morphologically distinct parent plants: (1) green-fruited with reddish spines, (2) red-fruited, (3) brown large-fruited, and (4) with brown distorted fruits. In artificial cross-pollination experiments, wide variation ranges in fruit set (0–95%) and fruit maturation (0–85%) were observed in different crosses. The number of seeds per capsule also showed variation (0–40 per capsule). Germination studies of seeds raised from different crosses showed a maximum 93% germination. The present study proved that improvement in B. orellana could be achieved by adopting breeding techniques using specifically selected parents.


Bixa orellana Pollen viability In vitro pollen germination Resource allocation Controlled pollination 



The authors are grateful to Dr. Ashalatha S. Nair, Professor and Head, Department of Botany, University of Kerala, for providing facilities. The authors also thank Kerala State Council for Science Technology Environment (KSCSTE), Government of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, India, for financial support (no. 028, SRSLS/2007/CSTE).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BotanyUniversity of KeralaThiruvananthapuramIndia

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