tulip seeds and germination

Kathleen Sayce ksayce@willapabay.org
Sun, 25 Oct 2009 17:06:59 PDT
This summer I decided to sacrifice 100 Tulipa sylvestris seeds to  
science: I sorted the fresh seeds from pods in my garden into 3  
groups;  I used a light table and hand lens to help determine the  
presence of an embryo in the ripe seed.
Group 1 had visible embryos in dark, nicely shaped seeds, n was 25; 2  
had dark, nicely shaped seeds, but no visible embryos, n was 25; 3  
had smaller, misshapen, clear light-colored seeds, n was 50.
Then I put them in clean thick paper towels, a la Deno, and in  
plastic sandwich bags in the vegetable drawer of my refrigerator. The  
paper towels were moistened before seeds were added, and were changed  
every 4 weeks.
Three months later I now have germinating seeds in groups 1 & 2; 100%  
and 50%, respectively; and no germination in group 3.

My conclusion is that for this species, and perhaps for most tulips,  
it is worth sorting out the light colored, small, misshapen seeds,  
and keeping the larger, darker seeds. If you want every one of them  
to germinate, it's also worth sorting those with visible embryos out  
from the rest, though there will be significant germination from  
seeds without visible embryos, so long as the seeds are large, well  
shaped, and at least somewhat brown to dark brown.

Pacific NW Coast, zone 8, where the next rainstorm is beginning to  

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