Growing Syneilesis aconitifolia from seeds

Growing Syneilesis from seeds is a straightforward process if the fruits are OK.
The problem of empty fruits it is most likely due to repeated clonal propagation. Syneilesis it is mostly propagated by division which is a much faster method of propagation; however, we end up with large populations having the same genotype.
Syneilesis has bisexual tubular florets (featured image), fertile (according with Flora of China) but like most Compositae it needs cross pollination in order to set seeds. So, in order to obtain a good seed set it is necessary to have in the garden a few plants that were grown from seeds.

For now we will have to contend with the few seeds packets I manage to select from the fruits kindly provided by my friends.
It is really not worth the time selecting those few packets, but I like to do it when I can because not all people have access to buy plants. Their only chance of having this species (and others) in their garden is to grow it from seeds.

Syneilesis is a warm germinator (room temperature) and it can be started indoors under lights or outdoors as soon as the frost danger is gone; the ‘seeds’ germinate in about 10-15 days.

Syneilesis aconitifolia seedlings; they have only one cotyledon and may remain at this stage during their first season.


They seem like not growing much in this phase but in fact they grow up good size roots – for this reason it is best not to use very small/short pots for sowing.

After transplanting the seedlings usually go dormant for a while and sometimes put up a true leaf in late summer/fall. Some remain dormant and will grow the true leaves only in the next season.
It is possible that some seedlings will form true leaves right away just like Podophyllums do. This behaviour can be seen in other rhizome forming species as well.
The temperatures and water regime may also have a role in the growth pattern.

Syneilesis aconitifolia seedling showing the first true leaf

I will end with a few pictures from one of the donors’ wonderful garden. The pictures were also kindly donated, so please respect the copyright.

Syneilesis is by definition a foliage plant and you can observe how well it looks in this rich, textural composition with other shade/part shade species.

Syneilesis aconitifolia – late spring; when emerging the leaves are hairy

Syneilesis aconitifolia – summer

Syneilesis aconitifolia – late fall

Compositae (Asteraceae): seeds, achenes and cypselae

Call them as you wish

Initially I wrote a short post for Growing Syneilesis from seeds for the germination page, and then I thought, wait a minute, it is not the only Compositae with fruits/seeds related problems.
So, I wrote a longer post on the subject and then thought, who’s going to read all this? Finally, I wrote another shorter post, and there will be more flower pictures later.

I think everyone knows that in Compositae (Asteraceae) what seems to be a single flower is actually a cluster – a composite of smaller flowers (florets), usually called a head which contains disk and/or ray flowers; both types can be bisexual or unisexual.
And, many species require cross-pollination in order to set seeds; the pollen has a special presentation mechanism which prevents self-pollination (I will talk more about this for Syneilesis).

Probably many are also aware that what we call ‘seeds’ in Asteraceae are actually fruits. In simple botanical terms they are single-seeded nuts. Scientifically, they have been called achenes by some and cypselae by others (see note).

So, we don’t see, collect and sow the actual seeds, but the whole fruits.
It is often a deceptive situation because copious amount of fruits are formed but most of them are seedless (cypsela is a very good name to illustrate that) – like it often happens in the case of Syneilesis aconitifolia. Another example, from my garden this time, is Achillea ageratifolia ssp. serbica.

Syneilesis aconitifolia – lots of empty fruits

Achillea ageratifolia ssp. serbica, flowering very well last summer, alas just lots of empty cypsalae were formed


If we call them fruits or seeds is not that important; I myself call them ‘seeds’. The important thing is to understand the distinction and be able to assess the situation when it comes to sowing, namely if you are really sowing ‘seeds’ or just ‘fluff’ (e.g., empty fruits).

This is why it is always a good idea to carefully check the fruits for many species of this family; take a note on Aster spp. and Solidago, Anaphalis, but not only.
Often is easy to select the good ones (which are plump) when observed with the naked eye; sometimes with the use of a magnifier – and a lot of time…The smaller they are, the harder is to distinguish the good ones.
For large quantities of fruits the cut method can be used by selecting samples.

Anthemis carpatica ssp. pyrethriformis – selected good and empty cypselae using a magnifiyng glass

Sowing seedless fruits, no matter what we call them, and no matter the plant family, will never result in germination.
Read about
Linnaea borealis and Acer triflorum.

Note: Fruits of composites have been called “achenes” because they resemble true achenes. Achenes are dry, hard, single-seeded fruits derived from unicarpellate, superior ovaries. Ovaries of composites are bicarpellate and inferior. Fruits derived from ovaries of composites are called cypselae “ – Flora of North America

cypsela – from the Greek kypselé, a box, hollow vessel



Plant valentine – North American native species

I had no intention to write a plant valentine because I am not done with the Compositae, but a recent order brought happy thoughts about our lovely woods and not only.

 I also thought about our quest for the unattainable, hard to obtain and grow species. All the while, an abundance of lovely North American species are awaiting to be cultivated more in our gardens. True, not all of them are glamorous, but one thing you can be sure about is that they are reliable.

So, here it is my plant valentine this year – to all North American native species: from the forests, mountains, prairies, bogs and fens to the rocky shorelines. We should all grow more!

Back to the Compositae, there are lots of native species among them that’s for sure  :)

*Maianthemum canadense seedling in the featured image

Seedless Friday – Compositae

Well, not quite seedless – here’s one image. I didn’t have time to finish what I wanted to do for the Compositae family and, taking into consideration the weather here, maybe it is for the best. We can really use some colours at this time!

Centaurea salonitana seeds

So, just a gallery with mostly Centaurea and few others thistle-like species :)
The names are displayed on mouse hover, or click and browse through the gallery




February Sale and shop announcement

February – welcome to fresh snow, the new February Sale list and the first germinated seeds of Aconitum ‘Ivorine’. A couple of packets have just been placed on the February Sale list.

Aconitum septentrionale ‘Ivorine’ germinated seeds

This is also the official announcement that the Seeds Shop will close for the month of March.

Please take advantage and do the seeds shopping during February. In March it is too late to provide cold/moist stratification for many species, a bit too early for the warm germinators and, most importantly, time off is needed to put in order the whole inventory, make plans for the new collections and perform various technical adjustments on the website.

All has to be ready by the time Hepatica starts flowering in April and the first wave of new seeds comes crushing upon us on May :)

Thank you all!



Friday’s Seeds – Boraginaceae

I only have a small collection of genera/species from the  Boraginaceae family. I must work better at this family, that’s for sure.
Here they are for now: Onosma, Omphalodes, Pulmonaria and something a bit more rare, Craniospermum.
And because species placed formerly in Hydrophyllaceae are now included in Boraginaceae, there is also Hydrophyllum.

For names, hover over images or click to open the gallery

Only one species/genus is shown, a couple more species are displayed in the new Boraginaceae page.


Overlapping – A new Sale list

Canada 150 Celebration Sale will end shortly. As the saying goes, with every end there is a new beginning.

A new Sale category for the month of February is in the works; it will include some of the previous species, and not only. Various other species, either collected in slightly larger quantities, or down to 1 pck., will be added to the list; plus, a few Clematis species.

For those interested to take advantage  – for a couple of days until I manage the end/new beginning, the two sale lists will overlap ;)

*In the featured picture: Saruma henryi seeds just starting to germinate!

Featured for this post is the newly added Clematis ‘Guernsey Cream’
This is a most beautiful Clematis hybrid with large light yellow flowers, opening to white cream/with a middle green band. The undisclosed parentage it’s presumed to be some natural light yellow strain of Clematis patens (seen in a few other cultivars of Japanese origin, like Wada’s Primrose).

I have to emphasize that this being a hybrid it will not come true from seeds! However, the possibility of obtaining something very close to it, or perhaps even better, is tantalizing!

In the picture below in my former tiny garden, growing/scrambling on Fagus sylvatica ‘Atropurpurea’; the large flowers will open just at the peak colour of the Fagus. An unforgettable sight!

Clematis ‘Guernsey Cream’


Growing Podophyllum from seeds, including Dysosma and Sinopodophyllum

While in the Berberidaceae realm, here’s a post where I outlined as best as possible, the process of growing Podophyllums from seeds from A to Z.

The Chinese Podophyllums (syn. Dysosma), share similar seeds and germination requirements as our native Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple). In all cases, the seeds are enclosed inside fleshy fruits. After the fruits are collected, it is important to extract and clean the seeds right away. This can be a bit unpleasant because the inside containing the seeds is gelatinous (use a sieve and lightly rub the seeds out and rinse, rinse and rinse again).

The sowing can/must be done right away (Sept./October) or the seeds placed in moist vermiculite in Ziploc bags until sowing. They are easy to keep in moist vermiculite as long as were well cleaned; you only have to check the moisture level once in a while (one exception noted for Dysosma aurantiocaule, when the seeds got soft fast, but I had a small lot of seeds and cannot really generalize).

I must emphasize that these seeds are hydrophilic, and using dry seeds to sow, in my opinion, is a complete waste of time.

Dysosma seeds in moist storage

The required cycles for germination are: Light WARM (late fall temperatures)/COLD.

  1. Sowing outside: the time would be early to late fall; sow as usual in pots/large containers, water and keep them over the winter in a cold frame. Easy done, no worries!

Podophyllum peltatum germinated outdoors with seedlings showing the cotyledon leaves

  1. Sowing indoors: usually done in the winter/early spring with seeds that have been kept moist and allowed a light warm/cold period. The cold period can be provided in a cold garage/fridge. It is not advisable to use this method unless enough light can be provided for the growing seedlings (light stand, conservatory).

If someone wants to speed up the process, the Ziploc bags with seeds can be taken out of the fridge around late January/February and kept at room temperature; gradually the seeds will start to germinate and can be potted up one by one and placed under the lights.

Dysosma hybrids (pleiantha x versipellis) seedlings

Or, leave the Ziploc in the fridge until all seeds start to germinate towards spring (approx. March/April) – as well, pot them up and provide adequate conditions until they can go outside.

Dysosma hybrid, seeds germinated in the fridge, April 21

In most cases, only cotyledon leaves will be formed, in other cases the true leaves will appear as well. Usually, P. peltatum forms only cotyledon leaves in the first season; the Chinese ones are variable, most will form a true leaf. When growing from seeds there is always great variability.
Keep the seedlings in a part shaded place, water and feed lightly. At some point in the summer they may go dormant, especially if very hot weather.

All the seedlings which didn’t form a true leaf in the first year, will do it in the second year. Be patient. In general, 3-4 years are necessary to obtain a good young plant; they will grow really fast after the root system has bulked up.

Synopodophyllum hexandrum (syn. Podophyllum hexandrum)

The difference in this case is that the seeds are not hydrophilic, so they can be kept dry in the fridge for quite a few years. Of course, when sown fresh (fall), they will germinate in the spring.

For dry seeds, a GA3 treatment followed by sowing at room temperature usually will result in rapid germination, and sometimes most seedlings will present the true leaf. 

Sinopodophyllum hexandrum seedling with true leaf

Important for all species: in the first 1-2 years they put lots of energy into forming their radicular system; this translates in the fact that the seedlings need enough space to develop. So, either sow fewer seeds per pot or transplant them in the early stage in individual pots.
I think my pictures show very well what I mean; learn from my mistakes ;) If you sown to dense and didn’t prick them early, don’t panic; when still dormant (very early spring), shake the soil, untangle the roots gently and repot in a fresh mix in large size pots.

Sinopodophyllum hexandrum crowded seedlings after one season growth  in the same pot

Sinopodophyllum hexandrum one-year seedlings prepared for repotting, notice the variation in size

Again, there is always variation when growing from seeds; we cannot expect all the seeds, even from the same batch, to grow the same: the collection site, mother-plant, ambient factors, all have an influence in germination & growth of the seedlings. This picture with one year old Dysosma plants shows it very well:

Dysosma hybrid one year old plants, prepared to be repotted

I hope this will be helpful for all wanting to grow Podophyllum/Dysosma from seeds – Happy Podos growing!

Friday’s seeds – Berberidaceae

This Friday I indulge in one of my favourite plant families; say it out loud – Berberidaceae!

It is a large family and here I emphasize of course, the ornamental side of it. Many known and beloved garden perennials (usually for the woodland gardens) belong to this family: Epimediums, Vancouveria, Achlys, Podophyllums, Jeffersonia, Ranzania, Diphylleia and so on. From the woody species, Berberis and Mahonia are widely cultivated.

What else they have in common, seeds speaking and referring to the perennials, is the fact that in most cases, these are hydrophilic (i.e. do not tolerate desiccation) and so for optimum results they need to be sown fresh or kept in moist storage.
The pattern required for germination in most cases is WARM/COLD, sometimes with multiple cycles (see Caulophyllum).
Hover over pictures for names

Two genera, Caulophyllum and Gymnospermium, present another rarely seen feature in Angiosperms, namely that the ovary walls burst open and the seeds develop and ripen in a ‘naked’ state (they look like fruits, but nonetheless are just seeds). Fascinating.

For more please see the newly published Berberidaceae page, the 10th in line!

I know seeds are boring (but how else can we obtain plants?), so here are few plant pictures, mostly to show species I don’t have seeds yet: Vancouveria hexandra, Achlys triphylla,   a nice, fat Dysosma and a hybrid Epimedium raised from ‘Amber Queen’ seeds (hybrid). For others like Caulophyllum, Jeffersonia, Podophyllum…I already showed pictures many times and they are also featured in the Seeds shop.

Vancouveria hexandra, garden cultivated; the fruits and seeds are very close with those of Epimedium.

Achlys triphylla, Vanilla leaf (Deer foot) in wild habitat, Victoria Island, BC.

Dysosma versipellis (syn. Podophyllum versipelle) at Butchart Gardens, BC

Epimedium ex. ‘Amber Queen’, a 3-years old plant flowering in my garden (for Epimedium only hybrids will be obtained when growing from seeds)

Only one more picture, more for the purpose to emphasize the name that should be used for Jeffersonia dubia – guilty of charge myself; I’ll try to go the right way from now on.

Plagiorhegma dubium (syn. Jeffersonia dubia)

Additional pictures will be posted later on FB in order to save space here on the website.



More new seeds

A short note again about the last seeds added to the shop, about a Lilium and thanks for sharing

The most recent Lilium species added to the shop doesn’t have a name, yet. The seeds were collected in the Durmitor Mts. of Montenegro, and it is offered for now as Lilium ssp. B17Durm.
The collector thinks it is a species from L. carniolicum/ chalcedonicum group.
Someone who already started germination tests, shared their findings and came back with the same conclusion (based on the fact the seeds displayed neither delayed hypogeal at warm, nor immediate epigeal germination).

Lilium ssp. B17Durm.; identifying Lilium after the seeds, an almost impossible task (1 mm grid)

Sometimes it is very hard to correctly identify certain species when plants reach seed maturity. Add to this being for the first time in a certain region and it becomes even more difficult. The only option in such cases is to ‘attach’ a collection name to the seeds; after the species is identified later everyone can refer back to it and write the correct name in their garden journal.

On this occasion, I would like to thank those who take time to write back and share their germinations findings, pictures, as well as other seedlings & plant related stories. I couldn’t possibly test by myself so many different species and any reliable piece of information is greatly appreciated.
It is always a pleasure to receive your emails – Thank you very much indeed :)

So, these are the last species added to the inventory (hover with the mouse to see the names).
Also in the Seed list,  Papaver ammophilum joins the others Papaver species (P. bracteatum and nudicaule) and the above mentioned Lilium.