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Propagation (seed, cuttings, etc): Seed collection

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Started by: Geoffrey Alderton

Seed collection from Sax longifolia.

Go to latest contribution by Tim Ingram, 13 September 2013, 21:28. Go to bottom of this page.

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Contribution from Tim Ingram 13 September 2013, 16:25top / bottom of page

Smaller again is Ramonda seed (in this case a good form of R. nathaliae). These we treat and sow like fern spores. Huge numbers of seed are produced by one plant, and when you consider that only one of these is required to grow on from the life time of the parent plant to maintain natural populations of this plant in the wild, it gives a sense of the fecundity and wastage that some plants require to perpetuate themselves. In ferns and orchids these numbers are even greater, and the spores of ferns in particular can easily spread around the world in air currents, leading to species with the broadest distributions of any plant.

At a different extreme of size is Lomatium columbianum, in a family that can also produce very large amounts of seed, which results in high populations in natural habitats (the Umbelliferae). The seeds of umbellifers are often winged and have parallel resin canals which make them relatively hydrophobic and slow to germinate. Many are best sown reasonably freshly in summer or autumn, and germinate well the following spring. The Lomatiums are rarely grown, but are a large and fascinating N. American genus of the family.

In many Composites and other plants with compound heads of flowers, very much of the 'seed' set is empty and infertile. Scabiosa cretica, a striking shrubby species, is an example from our garden and in the second photo only the seed on the right is firm and viable, compared with much larger amounts of infertile seed. Celmisias notoriously are similar in often producing very poor seed set. It can be difficult to tell in scabious, but squeezing the seed between thumb and finger will indicate which seeds are full or not, and though the pictures don't show it well it is quite easy to judge by sight with experience.

One of the most exciting aspects of growing plants from seed is when new and rarely grown species set seed in the garden (and this is especially true for a specialist societies like the AGS, which must have the finest seed exchanges of all). This seed is taken from a young plant of Teucrium orientale, a very striking Turkish member of the genus, and one which I would very much like to propagate. The seedheads don't release the seed easily and the best way to collect it is to break them up between the fingers and collect the seed from the chaff. Again looked at closely the seed has a puckered surface which I didn't notice by eye.

(the final picture shows a rather poor photo of this fine plant, which can form sizeable specimens in Nature).

These last two photos show seed of perhaps the loveliest of all hebes, H. hulkeana, and a plant always worth propagating. It can be difficult to clean from chaff, but gently tapping the seeding heads to release the seed is the best option rather than squeezing the seed heads more strongly. Plants like these show the tremendous value of collecting seed and the genorosity of many gardeners who contribute to the seed exchanges.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 13 September 2013, 21:28top / bottom of page

Just to add details of the SRGC seed identification site:-

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