[gardeners] re: unknown seeds

Tom Clothier (gardeners@globalgarden.com)
Wed, 21 Jan 1998 16:41:39 -0600

From: Cheryl & Erich Schaefer <schaefer@epix.net>

>I've got a question, and anyone might add his or her two cents here. When
>you don't know how a particular seed needs to be treated and can't find out
>for one reason or another, is there a rule of thumb you follow for first
>try, second, etc.? I've got some mystery shrub seeds from Italy that didn't
>respond to the ordinary 1/4 in. deep treatment.

There are half-a-dozen or more pre-treatments required by many seeds to remove
germination inhibitors.  Yours may require something as simple as light
or perhaps cold stratification.  Then there is making an impervious seed
coating receptive to imbibing moisture by nicking, or grinding, or puncturing, or
soaking in water.  Then there are chemical inhibitors which have to be
washed off mechanically or chemically.  And, finally, there is chemical
stimulation with GA3 or KNO3.  Then there are multicycle germinators
which must go through different stratification periods at different
temperatures to simulate what they expect to find in nature.  And, then
there are some seeds which germinate naturally in 1, 2, or 3 years.

You probably don't have enough seeds to try everything.  I would take the
seeds you have sown so far to the refrigerator or put them outside in the
snow for six to 8 weeks.  Then bring them back inside and slowly expose
them to room temperatures.  If there is no germination in four weeks, then
I would assume that some form of pretreatment of the seed coat was
necessary, and proceed from there.

It helps to know if the seeds came out of berries.  It helps to know if the
shrubs self-sow.  If you soak the seed until noticeable swelling occurs,
but it doesn't happen in a couple of days, then the seed coat probably
needs to be abraded somehow.  You will need to be a detective who is
good at picking locks. Keep records of what observe and keep trying.

Get the botanical name of the shrub, and your worries are over.  Failing
all else, put the rest of the seed outdoors with your bird seed.  You may get
some seedlings in the spring  --  of course, you won't recognize them
for what they are, but at least you got them to germinate. :-)

zone 5a, NE Illinois, -21F Min