hardiness - ancient seed

Jim McKenney jimmckenney@starpower.net
Thu, 23 Dec 2004 18:38:40 PST
At 08:17 PM 12/22/2004 -0800, Diane Whitehead wrote:

>Were those seeds sitting in packets while they aged or were they in soil?

Those seeds sat around the house for years at room temperature. About ten
years ago they were put into the household refrigerator, along with the
remainder of the seed collection. A few items went into the freezer, but
most are in the refrigerator. The freezer is probably the better choice for
truly long term storage. 

In my experience, Ipomoea tricolor cultivars do not self sow here. In fact,
it's unusual for them to ripen seed. Some Pharbitis purpurea (Ipomoea
purpurea) cultivars do self seed and come back year after year from seed in
the soil.

About four months ago I cultivated a section of the garden which had not
been touched for years. Seedlings soon appeared of both Euphorbia lathyris
and Onopordum acanthium, neither of which has flowered or set seed here in
recent years. 

Some seed of Lilium pumilum from the season 2002 started to show
germination within a month. This seed came from the refrigerator. In the
bad old days, it was widely believed that lily seed more than a year old
was worthless. 

My cold frames are now packed with pots of newly sown seed - some of it
current, some of it old. A few of these are geophytes, most are not. If
there is an interest in the group with respect to the results, I'll post
them as they occur. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where old seed is always
given a trial because I have a hard time believing that dead is always
really dead. 

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