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Orchid seed orchid seeds orchid seed germination asymbiotic orchid seed germination

Orchid seed orchid seeds orchid seed germination asymbiotic orchid seed germination

Hi Nadine!

Nadine Vreeland


Seed storage and germination parameters

There has been a remarkable amount of research that has been  performed with respect to keeping orchid seeds alive. For the vast  majority of growers, the parameters listed below will be enough to  maximize the germinability of your orchid seeds.

Seeds must not be excessively moist when packed into storage. Any  excess moisture, such as from green parts of capsules, moist or damp  seed, or damp packing materials, will cause fungi and bacteria to  breed. Even if the organisms are not harmful to the seeds themselves,  they will contaminate your seed to the point that it cannot be  effectively disinfected, and all of your flasks will be contaminated.

The ideal temperature for seed storage is at 4o C. At this  temperature, seeds of some species have germinated after more than 25  years in storage. Although not all species will last this long (it is  an effort to keep some genera alive for more than 4 months, even  under the best of conditions), the longevity of many common genera  are maximized at this temperature.

Most household refrigerators will go this low (best of all, your milk  will last forever at this temperature). The seed stored here at the  OSP is stored in large plastic food storage tubs, sealed carefully to  maintain the correct atmosphere (see below).

Keeping orchid seed dry is important, but it is possible to keep seed too dry. Research and trial and error has shown that approximately 30%  relative humidity (RH) is optimal at this temperature. This level is  best maintained through the use of "constant humidity  solutions," consisting of a small glass jar (about 4"  across, 4" deep) that has calcium chloride mixed with a small  amount of water in the bottom.

Constant humidity solutions will absorb extra water when it becomes  available, dropping the RH to an acceptable level, provided there is  still more undissolved solid present. Similarly, it will raise the  humidity as moisture leaves, provided there is still liquid water  present in the slurry. In this manner, the proper amount of water  remains in the atmosphere inside the storage units.

The seeds are carefully dried and inspected for any signs of mold,  fungi, and insects before being added to the collection. The 30%  relative humidity ensures the seeds are not damaged from extreme  dryness, nor from water damage or loss due to rot.

When you receive your package of seeds, unless they contain green  capsules, they can be placed in the refrigerator until used. We are  often asked for how long they are stable like this. The question is  now how long they are good for, but how well you wish they would  germinate. The fresher the seed, the better (except for most  cold-tolerant terrestrial orchids, which may require strange and  peculiar cold dormancy periods. We ship Cypripedium species  only after they have received a minimum of 4 months in refrigeration,  unless noted otherwise.).

For germination, we use P-668 (PhytoTechnology) or P-6668 (Sigma)  seed germination media, which is similar to 1/2 strength Murashige  and Skoog. The disinfection solution used most often consists of 5  grams of dichoroisocyanuric acid (DCCA) added to 1 liter of distilled  water, along with 1-2 drops of a wetting agent added. The DCCA  solution keeps for several months when stoppered tightly and  refrigerated in clean glass. The wetting solution is made by adding 2  drops of antibacterial "Dawn" dishwashing detergent to 100  mL of distilled water; this is tightly capped, and kept refrigerated.

We have also used calcium hypochlorite, sodium hypochlorite, and  'Virkon S' for disinfection of seeds. Our current use of DCCA is the  result of experimentation, and our current whims. It does not  necessarily reflect success or failure with any one solution.


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The Orchid Seedbank Project
PO Box 7042
Chandler, AZ 85246