Germination of old lily seed

Jim McKenney
Tue, 29 Mar 2005 09:09:05 PST
Last fall I went through the seed stored in the refrigerator and sowed all
of the lily seed I could find. There was a lot of it because I periodically
stockpile seed. 


An accession of Lilium pumilum, received in 1990 (and presumably ripened in
1989 at latest) is giving strong germination. An accession of Lilium amabile
from a year or two later is also germinating strongly, and an accession of
Lilium philadelphicum (small, dubious seed at that!) from the same time
period seems about to germinate freely.  


Several dozen lots of seed (one or two lots each of about three dozen lily
species) were sown and with one exception all look good; as temperatures
rise there should be loads of lily seedlings with which to play. 


I point this out for two reasons: old works treat lily seed as short lived -
there was once the widespread belief that lily seed more than a year old was


Furthermore, the seed lots in question were stored at room temperature,
probably for several years, before they were refrigerated. I'm not sure when
they were refrigerated; I've been refrigerating seed acquisitions
systematically for perhaps a decade. And by refrigerating seed I mean
storing it in the household refrigerator, not in the freezer (where it
reputedly lasts indefinitely). 


This last aspect might make a good research project for someone: what
happens in dry lily seed stored at room temperature for years during
subsequent cold storage? Dry seed stored at room temperature will not
usually germinate; seed stored dry for a few years and then stored dry and
cold for long periods of time apparently will. I don't think I've ever seen
that mentioned in the literature on the germination of lily seed. 



Jim McKenney

Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where it's hard to get
anything done because the contents of the several cold frames are so
interesting right now. 


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