“Like the seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring” – Kahlil Gibran

One of the coldest February months in history is about to end but it shouldn’t keep us from dreaming our hearts wishes…A gallery of spring flower seeds, which all bear elaiosomes; some are still dreaming under the snow or in my fridge, some have started to germinate.

(Click to see large size images)

The variety of elaiosome shapes and structures is simply mesmerizing when seen up-close. From barely seen in Claytonia (Spring beauty) to the ‘Mohican-style crest’ in Stylophorum (Wood poppy) and snail body-like in Sanguinaria (Bloodroot) – this is nature’s imagination at its best!

Arctic primroses

As far as my feet will carry me (see the note)

Overnight, new seedlings have started to sprout. They always seem to appear suddenly, but it’s all about perception. The ‘human’ measure of the time is way different than the ‘plant time’. Things you cannot change (like the weather), embrace them! Among others, this year I am growing an arctic primrose: Primula tschuktschorum, the Chukchi primrose.

Primula tschuktschorum seedlings

Primula tschuktschorum seedlings

According to the Flora of NA, this primula grows only in the Bering Strait region of Alaska, between the Seward Peninsula and Bristol Bay, “occasionally in coastal areas and more commonly at higher elevations in the mountains around late-lying snowbanks.” There is taxonomical confusion with its ‘sister taxon ’ primula, P. pumila (or P. eximia), which is usually called arctic primrose, but it will be easy to differentiate between the two later. My seeds were of garden origin anyway, and I could do with any of them.

Primula tschuktschorum

Primula tschuktschorum – photographed in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

Note: If someone wonders about the name, I tried to find out its roots; my best guess is that it relates to the Chukchi Peninsula of Russia (there are other plant and mammals species of the arctic bearing the epithet tschuktschorum).
In the past, it served as a Soviet prison camp, and there is a book with a very appropriate title: “As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me” by J.M. Bauer, which describes the experiences of a German WW II soldier who escaped from the gulag.


with Geum reptans

Our night temperatures have plunged to new record lows of -30˚C; our spirits are following the same trend. Short of being able to fly away to a sunny destination, I made a trip into the past summer days.

Geum reptans

Geum reptans – in habitat, Carpathian Mts.

Geum reptans sits at the top of my ‘to collect’ list. I would have a lot to say about this mountain Geum. After seeing it in full splendour, there is no denying that it holds the record of the largest flowered Geum species. From my present frozen perspective however, size is not as important as their irradiating glow, which could (metaphorically) melt the ice away.

I am convinced now that it is a total calcifuge species. In the natural habitat we found individuals growing majestically on granitic boulders or isolated populations scattered over sloped rocky alpine meadows only where the underlying substrate was predominantly of silicaceous nature; amongst them were rosettes of Soldanella pusilla and Primula minima. Needless to say that, the drainage they enjoy in these conditions is nothing short of being ‘stellar’.

Geum reptans - solitary on a versant boulder

Geum reptans – splashed over a big boulder, on a stabilized scree

Geum reptans - on a rocky alpine meadow slope

Geum reptans – on a rocky alpine meadow slope

In a few early flowered plants, the magnificent rose and fluffy seed heads were just beginning to ripe, so I couldn’t collect seeds last year; another record – of disappointment this time…

Geum reptans - immature seed heads

Geum reptans – immature seed heads

Propagation: I wrote about the germination and showed seedlings in other posts. The seeds from a previous collection have germinated very well. Seedlings developed strong tap roots and weren’t too fussy, but I didn’t manage to keep them going longer than two years. Not enough drainage was surely a big problem, especially in my newly planted rock-plants containers. I hope one day I’ll broke another record: of growing this mountain avens in my rock garden!

Berberidaceae seeds and embryos

Speaking about the inside winter gardening, this year I am trying to use GA3 to speed up the germination of Caulophyllum thalictroides (and a few others). There would be much to say about Caulophyllum seeds, from the fact that they develop outside the ovary and have a drupe-like look, they must be kept moist at all times after collecting, to the fact that they have a tiny immature embryo (it’s very hard to see it even with a hand-lens) but a gigantic corneous endosperm…
But I am only showing my new method of treating the seeds with a GA3 solution and then placing them back in vermiculite in the same small plastic bags, instead of using moist towel/Ziploc or sowing in pots. At this point, the embryos are most likely at the torpedo stage.

I think it is a great method for medium to large size seeds and a super space saver (which is of my high interest right now). It is easy to see if/when something germinates, and I had proof that the roots can grow quite a bit on the support they get from vermiculite (in contrast to keeping the seeds in moist towels, where the new roots get entangled and are easily damaged).

If someone is curious to browse the gallery (hover for caption): sectioned seeds/embryos of Caulophyllum, Podophyllum peltatum and of Ranzania japonica, a most intriguing species from the same family as Caulophyllum (Berberidaceae). Many members of this family, which simply fascinates me, are difficult to grow from seeds: think Epimedium, Podophyllum, Jeffersonia, Vancouveria…I will be most happy to grow Ranzania – it looks like a cool hybrid plant between Glaucidium and Anemonopsis!
A few Epimedium and Jeffersonia diphylla were sown early summer last year. We’ll see about that…