Starting from seed. Seed collection methods.

Jim McKenney
Tue, 31 Aug 2004 16:20:53 PDT
At 12:41 PM 8/31/2004 -0700, Kenneth J. Boettger
>For those that grow from seed and now that we are in the middle of seed
>I am curious how folks collect their seeds?  Especially those that release
>slowly over a long period of time.

I use small plastic zip-lock bags. These have worked well for such things
as Hepatica, Helleborus and Galanthus. One advantage here: you can write on
the bag before it is attached to the inflorescence/infructescence. Thus you
can write identification, accession numbers, dates and so on. And there is
an advantage to doing this before the bag is attached: sometimes I don't
collect these in a timely manner, and the bags sometimes become detached
from the plant (especially in the case of plants such as Galanthus which go
to mush as they ripen). I'll find them later, sometimes several feet from
the parent plant. 

These also work well with "poppers" - those plants whose capsules explode
as they ripen (such as Stylophorum). And they will give you a better chance
with plants whose seeds have elaiosomes (such as Trillium, Jeffersonia or
Iris cristata) - zip 'em up tight and the ants won't get them. 

Those of you who know your propagation rites will have noticed that the
plants mentioned are mostly ones whose seeds do not benefit from drying
out. The various netting methods are a better choice for plants whose seeds
tolerate or require drying out. 

The bags I use are the smallest ones I could find; they are about 2 1/2
inches by 3 inches. 

Here's a funny story about my use of these bags: there is a big plant of
Jasminum nudiflorum at our front door. Most (maybe all?) of the material of
Jasminum nudiflorum in general cultivation is clonal in nature. In a
lifetime of gardening, I had never known this plant to set viable seed
until two years ago. But there it was, an apparently healthy capsule
ripening seed. I was very excited by this, and immediately attached one of
the small plastic zip-lock bags to the capsule. 
About a week later, the bag was gone - and so was the developing capsule. A
tidier member of the household had pulled it off and thrown it away because
it looked tacky there at the front door.
And there went my chance to make one bit of horticultural history!  

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where a curious garden
visitor, upon seeing what looked like zip-lock snack bags on the plants,
asked "Are you raising organic snacks?". 

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