Helleborus and Paeonia seedlings

Tom Mitchell tom@evolution-plants.com
Mon, 08 Apr 2013 03:19:23 PDT
Helleborus vesicarius certainly behaves like a bulb - a Juno Iris is perhaps the best comparison - so I think it should be given honorary membership of the club.

I also find that most, but not all H.vesicarius seedlings make a true leaf in their first season of growth. I have hundreds of seedlings sown in fall 2012 doing that just now. The literature does indeed say this doesn't happen but, as is so often the case, the plants haven't read the books.

It is interesting that your seeds were sown in 2011 and are just germinating now. I made three collections of H. vesicarius seed at different altitudes in Turkey last fall. Those from the highest altitude population, which were clearly unripe, have germinated much better than the lower altitude populations. Very few seeds from the lowest altitude population have germinated. I expect that these will germinate next spring, which has been my experience with bought seed of this species. These observations are consistent with the well known finding that many Ranunculaceae species germinate more quickly and reliably if seed is harvested before it is ripe. 

Incidentally, I have killed many more seedlings of H. vesicarius by keeping them too dry in the dormant season than too wet. They need to be kept barely moist, watered from below, not above to avoid crown rot.

Paeoniaceae is closely related to the Ranunculaceae and also seems to behave in this way. Seeds collected just before the capsules dehisce regularly produce a root and a shoot in their first season of growth, whereas fully ripe seed produces only a root in the first season. Old, stored seed often germinates erratically, over several years.

Sometimes the cotyledons of Paeonia seedlings get stuck in the seed coat, and then are vulnerable to rotting. With such a valuable seedling, you could 'liberate' the cotyledons, very carefully, with a scalpel or pair of scissors. It also looks from your photo as if the base of the shoot is brown and slightly constricted. This may be a symptom of a damping off disease. It might be worth giving the pot a dose of fungicide? Finally, I have found the species you refer to, from NW Iran to be difficult to grow and exceptionally vulnerable to crown rot, even as adult plants. I think it is critical to keep the crown dry while the plants are dormant, much like H. vesicarius.



> Message: 5
> Date: Sun, 7 Apr 2013 21:34:32 -0700 (PDT)
> From: arcangelo wessells <arcangelow@yahoo.com>
> Subject: [pbs] Helleborus and Paeonia seedling questions
> To: "pbs@lists.ibiblio.org" <pbs@lists.ibiblio.org>
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> Hello all. I hope these are close enough to bulbs for me to submit these questions:
> First is that I have a pot of seedlings of Helleborus vesicarius. I planted them in Fall 2011. They all sprouted within a week of eachother in January 2013 after a cold week with lows of 28F/-3C. I have two grown plants, and all the literature says the first year only the cotyledons sprout. This whole group of seedlings has also gotten their first true leaves. Has anyone seen this before? Here is a photo:
> http://flickr.com/photos/8690158@N07/…
> Another related question. I have grown several Paeonia from seed. They have all ?sent up a leaf very soon after their root emerges from the seed [in the first winter I mean]. Right now I am watching a very slow germination of a seed from Jenny Archibald's last list. Listed as "Paeonia sp. nova" from NW Iran. As you can see from the photo, the root seems to be splitting to allow the leaf sprout. But if the leaf doesn't emerge, how do I care for this plant over the summer/dry season? Thanks very much and here is the photo:
> http://flickr.com/photos/8690158@N07/…
> Thanks very much if anyone can help.
> Arcangelo Wessells
> Coastal Northern California

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