tulip seeds and germination

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Tue, 27 Oct 2009 12:08:50 PDT
Kathleen wrote,
>This summer I decided to sacrifice 100 Tulipa sylvestris seeds to
>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.
>...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.

This is true of many liliaceous plants that produce seeds with flat 
papery wings. You don't have to be as scientific as Kathleen was and 
sort them under a dissecting scope. It works pretty well, once you 
get used to it, to place them in a bowl with straight sides, about 2 
to 3 inches deep (such as a small mixing bowl, and it should not be 
plastic because the seeds will cling to plastic), and blow very 
gently on them. The seeds without embryos will easily fly out, and 
the heavier, viable seeds will remain in the bowl. Do this outdoors 
or over a cloth, or you will get chaff all over the room. Start 
carefully with just a faint puff of breath until you discover what 
works. You will find a few species that have seeds so small that this 
isn't an effective sorting technique, but it works for most tulips, 
lilies, and fritillarias.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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