Grow Your Own Pea Plants

This video is a live feed of pea plants growing in our greenhouse facility. Want to help us study these plants? Send us your ideas for experiments or ask us to zoom-in on any plant on display. office@gmi.oeaw.ac.at

Do Some Science With Us!

A massive seven-meter inflatable pea seed was planted on the grounds of BOKU to remind people that the garden pea has been Gregor Mendel’s principal research plant.

As mentioned in this podcast by Indiana University, the roots of modern biology grew in a monastery garden. Gregor Mendel laid the foundation for genetics with his crossing experiments on peas.

He carried out his hybridization experiments with peas in the garden and greenhouse of the Augustinian monastery in Old Brno.

These science experiments are not just for monastery gardens. Like Eva Wallner, our postdoc who got an early start in science, plant cross-breeding experiments can be done at any age.
 
The transfer of parents’ characteristics on descendents can easily be controlled by transferring pollen with a small paintbrush. Furthermore, pea plants exhibit many traits that have only two possibilities, making them easy to study. A pea plant is tall or short, has green seed or yellow seed, or grows white or purple flowers.

The Gregor Mendel Institute invites you to grow pea plants with us. While we grow our pea plants in our greenhouse, we want you to grow your pea plants at home.

Getting started is as simple as sending us an email. We can send you a bag of pea seeds. Instructions for growing them are on this page. When you are ready, send us another email with your pictures and discoveries. We’ll share your results on our website alongside the live stream of our greenhouse.

Our Email Address: office@gmi.oeaw.ac.at

How to Conduct Your Own Pea Experiments

Every breeding project starts with the selection of two flowering parent plants (different varieties of the same species), which are then cross-pollinated. Pea plants have monoecious flowers, one flower contains male and female parts. To avoid self-pollination, we must remove the anthers (the male part of the flower that contains the pollen) and then applicate the pollen from another variety. As a result, the new seeds produced by this pollination contain half maternal and half paternal genes. This genetic recombination generates new diversity.

1

Choose a pea plant that will be used as a mother.

2

Bend the petals to the side, so that a boat-like structure, the so-called “keel”, is exposed.

3

Remove all the petals around the orange- colored stamens.

4

To avoid self-pollination, carefully remove the anthers.

5

At the end only the female part of the flower remains.

6

Now to the second step of the crossing – the pollination. Use tweezers to open a flower from the desired father plant.

7

Once the stamens are exposed, the flower can be used like a brush to apply pollen to the previously castrated flower.

8

Carefully the pollen is applicated on the previously castrated flower.

9

Ready! The stigma of the mother plant should be thoroughly covered with orange pollen grains of the father plant.

10

If fertilization was successful, the flower will develop into a pod containing seeds within a few days.

ARCHE NOAH provided the original cross-breeding instructions that GMI adapted for this page. ARCHE NOAH is a non-profit organization reserving and developing the diversity of cultivated plants for over 30 years. The ARCHE NOAH Seed Bank is one of Europe’s biggest private collections of cultivated plants, maintaining about 5,500 accessions of rare vegetables and grains. The organization is located in Schiltern, lower Austria, supported by over 15.000 members and sponsors and is offering guided tours through the ARCHE NOAH visitor garden and garden classes. ARCHE NOAH is also politically active and advocates for various seed policy issues, such as opposing the patenting of seeds.