Some thoughts on Arisaema-seed viability

P.Bruggeman pbruggeman at WISH.NET
Fri Jun 29 11:35:13 CEST 2001

Dear all,

On the subject of Arisaema-seed from the Archibalds I first want to say that
the fact seeds don't germinate doesn't necessarily mean that the seeds were
not good in the first place. It COULD but I think that seed viabilty is
still not well understood and I don't think it's fair to pick one source and
blame the bad results on them. Collecting seeds from your own collection,
picking them at the right time, cleaning them properly, drying them at room
temperature and storing them in the fridge sure would help a lot in getting
good germination results but I don't know how the Archibalds collect their
seeds. Do they collect from their own plants, do they buy from collectors in
the Himalayas (who might not have the knowledge to store the seeds properly)
or do they collect themselves? Having collected in the wild myself last year
I now know that things aren't that easy. Eventhough I did my best to do
anything I could (under the primitive circumstances) to go home with
cleaned, dried seeds there were still some seed collections that didn't want
to germinate. Why? You tell me! In general I would say that most seeds stay
viable for 1-3 years if they are stored in the fridge, I know tortuosum and
flavum do. The older the seeds are, the more erratic the germination pattern
gets, the smaller the number of seedlings come up and the more distorted the
seedlings usually get. No doubt the best results will be achieved if the
seeds are sown within the first six months after collection. I don't think
that every single species retains their viability as good as tortuosum or
flavum, they all come from different habitats. In general I would say that
most species can cope with being dried but I strongly suspect that there are
a few species that need to be sown fresh (A. nepenthoides). Even if the
seeds were viable originally, there are so many things that can go wrong
during storage or transport that it is hard to say why they still not
germinate. Heat? Cold? Humidity? Perhaps 1 species can cope better with heat
than the other, who can tell? Do seeds of lowland species cope better with
occasional heat than highland species? I always thought that Arisaema-seed
could not cope with frost at all until I found A. jacquemontii at 4000 m
with frost on the ripe seedheads. I collected it but it didn't germinate (it
didn't rot either by the way), how could that particular population get
there in the first place then? The climate is very stable at these heights
which means that the first night frosts come at the same time every year.
How could this population have increased in size? I always wondered how
seeds germinate in the wild if they can't cope with night frosts, does
nature sow them for us at just the right depth where they can not be
affected by frosts? I don't think so! All the species I encountered had
their ripe seeedheads lying on the ground with no berries being taken by
some animal for food (and subsequently distribution). I kept all my
seedcollections in my sleeping bag during the nights because the temperature
would drop below zero in my tent but maybe 37 C was too hot for that
particular jacquemontii-collection......? I don't think there are general
rules for the viabilty of Arisaema-seeds, every species will react
differently to unfavourable conditions. Some species might germinate better
than others even if they are treated ideally (whatever that may be). Let's
not forget that some species don't SEEM to germinate at all in their first
year but they still would have formed a tiny tuberlet and only produce a
seedleaf in their second year (elephas/wilsonii, thunbergii etc.).
Discarding those seeds after 1 year would be a mistake. So people, please
don't pick on 1 source if we don't know enough about Arisaema-seed viabilty
to justify that. Okee, if they sell old seeds that were unsold in the
previous years then you have every right to be dissapointed with them but I
have had bad results with B&T seeds too (but also some good results with
their seed) and also from very reputable wild-collectors, just like Ellen.
If you don't want to take the risk you can rely on the various
seed-exchanges but if you do take the risk you can end up with some very
exciting stuff.


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