Saturday, November 14, 2015

Seeds

Just today as I write this post I have received some seed from the Pacific Bulb Society seed exchange, a member supported seed and bulb exchange program available only to Pacific Bulb Society members. Seed is the best way to introduce plants into your garden primarily because the seedlings that survive will be the best suited individuals for your gardens conditions. Also of some importance is the source of the seed, by which I am talking about the conditions and climate of the parent plants. Some species can be very widespread and live in both mild and harsh (by comparison) climates, yet still have nearly identical DNA enough to be considered the same species. If the seed is from parent stock in a mild climate, such as a maritime climate, I would question its ability to perform well here in my garden. Bloom times can also vary considerably depending on the locally adapted species (by locally I mean one population as compared to another far away). Fritillaria affinis is one such widespread species which varies considerably in growth habit, flowering time, and perhaps even hardiness though I have not had the experience to test the last claim.

Zigadenus fremontii seed
Toxicoscordion fremontii (Torrey) Rydberg seed
Toxicoscordion fremontii (syn. Zigadenus fremontii) is native to Coos and Curry Counties in SW Oregon south to Northern Baja California. It is found growing on grassy and wooded slopes and flowers from April to June, according the the newly published Flora of Oregon. Part of my goal is to have an easy yet interesting garden. Toxicoscordion is very appealing to me because all parts of the plant are highly toxic (above and below ground), so no protective caging is required! This has unfortunate consequences. We have been lucky that we have never had an issue with our daughter putting things in her mouth, but we are expecting another daughter at the start of next year (woohoo!) so we must be vigilant in teaching her not to eat plants (unless they are vegetables, of course). The second concern, albeit mild in comparison to the first, is that the nectar and pollen are both toxic to bees. The paradox is that Toxicoscordion and related Anticlea (both included in the former Zigadenus) have been observed to be bee pollinated. There is surely a lot we do not know about this strange anthecological relationship.

Acis autumnalis seed
Another plant that may be too toxic for herbivores is Acis autumnalis (syn. Leucojum autumnale) which is a member of the Amaryllidaceae, a family that is supposedly toxic but perhaps only variably so. A. autumnalis is native to  the Iberian Peninsula and grows to 4-8 inches tall. It is an Autumn blooming species, which for me is a great asset and a highly desirable plant. I had acquired a few small bulbs of this species a few months ago from the PBS bulb exchange, but the somewhat recent vole activity at the site of their planting has made me question their resistance to herbivory. Either way, I thought it would be interesting to try the plant from seed to grow a strain best adapted to my garden. The resulting plants will be caged or kept in pots.

Allium carinatum ssp. pulchellum f. album seed
This Allium, not from the SX but rather from my own garden, has been a good performer and easy to grow, yet was taken out by voles earlier this year. Luckily I had collected a ton of seed. Cages. They will survive. All the seeds seen above were sown at or near the surface (I sprinkle the seed then aggitate the surface with my finger before tamping and topping with grit), labeled with durable aluminum labels (complete with species, date, and SX# if applicable) and placed either out in the open or under lights. The resultant seedlings (hopeful thinking!) will be fodder for a future post... grow strong, little seeds!

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