Friday, June 3, 2016

Fawn Lily Seeds

Every spring and summer, bulbs set seeds. This sounds utterly trivial. It's what plants do. Yet it is something more––a recurring miracle of climate, soil, and all the hazards that can befall a plant on the way from bulb to flower to seed pod. 

Fawn lilies, genus Erythronium, are a bulb group that I have admired for decades when hiking in natural areas, and for the past 15 years or so, have also grown in my own garden. I have collected wild seeds on occasion, and often buy seeds from seed collectors. These seeds start in pots, where I can keep watch on them, head off potential problems, and shepherd them towards flowering size. 

In 2010 I participated in the North America Rock Garden Society's seed sale. NARGS offers some bulbs every year. That year one offering was labeled "Erythronium x pink". The seeds that came were of two sizes, and I should have taken the time to sort them out and plant them separately. But I did not. Instead the seeds were planted in a pot, labeled, and then time passed. 

Mixed pot of Erythronium bulbs in flower

In 2014 the first bulbs flowered. By this spring, almost all flowered, which was when I found that yes, these are all pink-flowered Erythroniums. But they are not all the same. Some have the mottled leaves of E. revolutum. Others have plain green leaves, more like garden hybrids of E. revolutum and other western species. 

This week I collected seeds from both groups, and this time, I kept the seeds separate. Yes, there are two different sources, two different sizes to these seeds. These two lots will go in separate pots when I plant them. 

Erythronium revolutum type seeds on the left, Erythronium x pink on the right. The grid is 5 mm.

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