Morphological characteristics of flowers, duration of flowering, degree of self-pollination, and extent of berry and seed production in North American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) were studied under controlled environmental conditions as well as under field conditions. A comparison was also made between plants of 3 and 4 years of age at two field locations. The duration of flowering was ≈4 weeks and was similar in plants of both age groups grown in the two environments; however, 4-year-old plants produced an average of 40% more flowers (≈100 per plant in total) compared to 3-year-old plants. Flowers were comprised of five greenish-colored petals, five stamens, and an inferior ovary consisting of predominantly two fused carpels and stigmatic lobes. Anthers dehisced in staggered succession within individual flowers, and flowering began with the outermost edge of the umbel and proceeded inwards. At any given time during the 4-week flowering period, ≈10% of the flowers in an umbel had recently opened and were producing pollen. Stigma receptivity was associated with separation of the stigmatic lobes; this occurred at some time after pollen release. Growth of pollen tubes through the style in naturally pollinated flowers was most evident when the stigmatic lobes had separated. The proportion of flowers that developed into mature berries (pollination success rate) was in the range of 41% to 68% for both 3-year-old and 4-year-old plants. However, when the inflorescence was bagged during the flowering period, berry formation was increased by 13% to 21% in 4-year-old plants, depending on location. A majority of the berries (92% to 99%) contained one or two seeds in an almost equal frequency, with the remaining berries containing three seeds. In 4-year-old plants, the frequency of two-seeded berries was increased by ≈13% by bagging the inflorescence. These observations indicate that P. quinquefolius is highly self-fertile and that several physiological and environmental factors can affect seed production.
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