Friday, January 18, 2013

Old Seeds and Jack (you have to read to the end)

This is not a post about doing germination tests on your old flower or vegetable seeds.  This is a story of forgetfulness.

Back in the fall of 2010, I was hiking at the Yahoo Falls area in McCreary Co, KY.  Great place to hike by the way.  I collected some seed from a cucumber magnolia.  I absolutely love our native deciduous magnolias!  I gathered between 15 and 25 seeds.

When I got home, I did the thing that all horticulturists know to do with those temperate woody tree seeds, and that's stratify them.  In order to germinate, these guys have to go through a cool, moist period of a certain length.  Only after that will the seeds germinate.

So, as a good horticulturist, I got my ziplock bag and filled it with moist vermiculite, stuck my seeds in, and crammed them in the back of my fridge.  Never to be looked at until again December of 2012.

That does tend to happen...forgetting what you've stuck in the fridge, especially waaaay in the back.

I found the bag, inspected the contents, and the seeds had indeed germinated in the bag.  That was expected.  I gently tugged the individual plants out. The root systems weren't any longer than maybe 2" and some were nicely branched and white as can be - a healthy root.  The seed case still enclosed the cotyledons.

I didn't have much hope that those cotyledons would be intact. I figured they'd be rotted.  Anyway, I potted up 6 of the most promising little seedlings. I watched them green up (they were little albinos in the bag). I watched them bend toward light sources.  But the seed cases were hanging on and wouldn't release the cotyledons.

Two seedlings a day or 2 on the counter after their 2-year stint in the fridge
So, I opened them up by hand. They were a little crispy, somewhat hard.  I messed up one of the plants, tore the whole plum thing off.  But the other 5 look promising.

The most promising seedling, you can see its first true leaves between the cotyledons
Ragged cotyledons on another 2 seedlings, but I have high hopes
The cotyledons aren't terribly pretty, a little ragged.  In two of the 5, I even see very, very small first true leaves!  I feel like a proud mama (who neglected her children for 2 years)!  But I think they're going to be OK. I truly don't know why I even gave them a shot, I normally would have just thrown the bag with the seeds out after being in the fridge that long.

Just goes to show you, when you think you know it all about plants, you don't know jack.