A risky business – Polygala paucifolia

I think some are imagining that trying to open a business of selling wild collected seeds is a breeze – happily wandering in fields and mountains and grabbing here and there whatever comes under your eyes. Well, very far away from the truth. For example, who would think about stumbling into a massasauga rattlesnake (the only venomous snake in Ontario), while collecting Polygala paucifolia seeds!

Massasauga snake

Massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus)

The timing to collect Polygala is almost impossible; the fruiting/seed setting is usually low and then the seeds are equipped with elaiosomes that ants will carry away very fast. So, there is no wonder that seeds are almost never offered and, although desirable, neither are the plants! Looking at the flowers, you understand why all this is worthwhile!

Polygala paucifolia

Polygala paucifolia

My germination trials with Polygala seeds showed that dry stored seeds in the fridge, sown in the spring germinate very well, and also the seedlings are developing very well. Seeds stored moist-cold, germinate later and in a lower percentage.

Polygala seedlings

Polygala paucifolia seedlings – germination 95%; they may look small size but remember that this is a little plant

PS. Keep your eyes wide open when hiking in the rattlesnake habitat! When moving, it makes a low rattle noise to make you aware, but when standing still it is very well camouflaged and it doesn’t rattle. They give birth to live baby-snakes, finger-size but already venomous! It is designated a species at risk in Ontario – more about it on Reptiles and Amphibians of Ontario website.

13 replies
  1. Amy Olmsted
    Amy Olmsted says:

    So now is the time to collect the seed? There are lots of Polygala growing along the road right here but I have never thought of collecting the seed. And thanks for the germinating advice! Also do you have a list of your seed for sale?

    • diversifolius
      diversifolius says:

      Here, they were almost done, we should have gone a bit earlier but the collection place is quite far away. The capsules are still green but the seeds are almost black when ready. Have a look, if you find lots I am interested in an exchange – maybe you would like some Primula mistassinica :)

    • diversifolius
      diversifolius says:

      Forgot to answer your last question; very soon I will publish my seed list in Catalogue mode (without the shopping cart) so anyone can have a look and even ask for seeds if don’t want to wait. I will have a quick post tonight offering some interesting seeds for trade, that you might be interested.

      • Amy Olmsted
        Amy Olmsted says:

        Sounds great and thanks! My seed collecting gets more out of hand every year and I have a huge assortment of paper bags piling up. I started using small mesh bags for the Hellebores and Jeffersonia…they work like a charm!

        • diversifolius
          diversifolius says:

          Yeah, you have to be very organized with these things. Jeffersonia is one species that I like but I couldn’t find yet an area for collecting.

    • diversifolius
      diversifolius says:

      Thanks Gill; I didn’t know if to joke or not about it. When I read that Ontario hospitals often don’t have the anti-venom on hand (too expensive!), I changed my mind. In the Carpathian Mts. I slipped and stopped from going down a slope by banging my head from a tree, lots of stories…

  2. Elaine Chittenden
    Elaine Chittenden says:

    How might I obtain permission to use an image of yours (by this Friday 1.15.2016)? I am writing an article about the elaiosome festival I provide for some ants in Michigan. It is for a start up magazine and I have no idea of their budget so I am asking because the image is very nice

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