Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Wildflower Wednesday: Stratifailure
I'm really disappointed in my columbine seeds this year! Well, it's probably not their fault so I'm not really disappointed with them, but rather with the germination rate. I only have this one teeny tiny seedling, when for the last few years I've had an excellent germination rate from these same types of seeds gathered from the same columbine (Aguilegia canadensis) plants in my front border given the same stratification/scarification treatment. What gives?
There are some possible culprits:
1. The seeds weren't viable: Possible but not likely. It's very easy to tell when columbine seeds are mature. The seedheads are dried and brown and sound like a rattle when you shake them. Plus the mature seeds are a distinctive shiny black. Unlike some other seeds (i.e., Eupatorium, coreopsis) these ones are a dead giveaway for viability.
2. Mis-Treatment: Again, possible. I moist stratified these a little longer than usual this year (five weeks instead of 3-4). But I would think that would increase the chance of moisture absorption. Although, maybe all that time in the wet paper towel did some damage...it wouldn't be the first time that's happened!
(Note: I rubbed the seeds gently between sandpaper to scarify the seed coat, or outer covering. Then I placed them in a moist paper towel, put that in a ziploc and left them in the fridge for five weeks. That is "moist stratification.")
3. Not enough light and/or heat: Hmmm...for some silly reason with the columbine seeds I didn't use the fluorescent desk lamp that I pretend is a grow light for the first week after planting them. Then when I planted my broccoli and lettuce seeds I started using it. We also finally got some sun at that same time. The vegetable seeds sprouted immediately (ruling out soil or water issues because they're all in the same soil mix and same self-watering seed starter kit). But I've never used a heat mat and have never had an issue with columbine germination, even when I've started them earlier in the year, like late February.
So it remains a mystery! Hopefully I can coax along this one little guy and not kill him in the delicate transplanting process (one reason why I like to have multiple seedlings but I guess no such luck this year!). Fortunately I found some self-sown seedlings in the garden last weekend during my spring clean-up!
Wildflower Wednesday is hosted by Gail at Clay & Limestone. Go there to check out more posts about native plants around the country!