Germination of old lily seed

Jim McKenney
Tue, 29 Mar 2005 15:36:19 PST
That properly stored lily seed will germinate long into the future has, as
Jane McGary pointed out, been known for awhile - in fact, for decades. But
when the modern lily hobby got started just before the Second World War, the
prevailing view was that seed more than a year old was just about worthless.
There exists work of the period which cites formal research indicating seed
longevity of one or two years for lily seed stored dry at room temperature. 

The real point I was trying to make is that if you have lily seed more than
a few years old which has been stored dry at room temperature (and thus
might not be expected to germinate),  a period of dry cold storage prior to
normal sowing may induce germination. It's this sequence of events which I
have never seen mentioned in the literature. 

Jane repeats the misconception that Cardiocrinum is monocarpic. Cardiocrinum
are no more monocarpic than most other liliaceous bulbs. Compare, for
instance, Cardiocrinum and Tulipa. In each case, the annual stem which bears
the flowers and seed dies after the seed ripens; in each case, the bulb
which supported that annual stem dies as the fruiting stem ripens. In the
case of most tulips, there will be a clutch of new bulbs to replace the
original bulb. In other words, the tulip bulb you plant in November is not
the tulip bulb you dig in July. In the case of the Cardiocrinum, there will
be one or more small bulbs to replace the original one. But in neither case
does the plant itself actually or necessarily die after setting seed. The
true stem, the perennial stem (aka the basal plate), typically continues to
live from year to year in both Cardiocrinum and Tulipa and eventually
produces another flowering and seed-setting annual stem. 

The term monocarpic is like the term dioecious: it properly describes a
taxonomic unit, not an individual plant. Yes, there have been individual
plants of both Cardiocrinum and Tulipa which have died after setting seed
(and of course, plenty which have died before that). But the members of both
taxa typically live indefinitely and flower and fruit repeatedly - annually
in the case of tulips under good culture and approximately hebdomadally
(i.e. every seventh season) in the case of Cardiocrinum. 

The plants of truly monocarpic taxa die after setting seed the first and
only time. Plants of taxa which produce offsets are not monocarpic unless
all of the offsets bloom and die with the main plant. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where the long standing joke
has been that oriental hybrid lilies are the world's most expensive annuals;
will it be long before someone calls them monocarpic?

More information about the pbs mailing list