Our Adventure With Victoria 2004
This section of the web site reviews each year of our adventure, with details not found in other sections of the site -- things like plant and flower numbers, successes and failures, big and small things we've learned. It also discusses thing we want to do, things we want to know, things we speculate about. It is sequential, often with questions raised one year answered the next. We don't go back and rewrite. Index

What Makes Victoria Seeds Sprout -- Or Not?

by Kit & Ben Knotts
Click images to enlarge

When we first began with Victoria, there were so many problems involved with growing it that pure luck provided the greatest chance of success. Over time we seem to have improved the proper temperatures for storage of each type individually. We have learned that removing the operculum from the seeds of difficult lots improves germination dramatically. We have found the combination of factors that promotes seedling survival.

In short, we have eliminated enough variables and accumulated enough data that we can begin to look at sprouting and survival patterns group to group. There are some surprising similarities and some baffling differences.

With V. amazonica, all stock that we deal with has been provided to us from recent collections in the wild so we are sure it is pure. We feel patterns can be viewed as representative, at least for the region of Amazonia from which they were collected.

For V. cruziana, we now look at them in two separate groups. The domestics, more or less of known provenance, have not been tracked as carefully as we would like prior to our receiving them and we again mention the possibility of corruption somewhere in their 100 year history in cultivation. The second group is the wild-collected. Our experience with the Paraguayans now spans enough years that patterns are taking shape. Preliminary data on the Argentinians seems to match.

V. amazonica 

In general, most spontaneous sprouting occurs in the first 6 months after collection. Individual lots sprout at different intervals in flurries and then stop. For reasonable germination and comparative rates, seeds must be nicked. All lots will sprout under some conditions.

Straight line selfs - sprout well in the first 6 months after collection but don't produce especially strong seedlings. Sprouting for the next 2 years is considerably less. In the third year after collection, good germination resumes with seedling strength still relatively poor.

Crosses - sprout well in the first year and produce very strong seedlings. Sprouts from the second and third years are weaker.

First generation selfs of crosses - sprout nearly as well as first generation crosses and produce relatively strong seedlings. They weaken in subsequent years and weaken if the self is carried forward more generations. 

V. cruziana - wild 

First year germination of the seeds collected in Paraguay was less than .01%. Second year germination was somewhat better with the best results in the third year. Even in the fourth year, some continue to sprout. Overall, some seedlings have been strong and some weak, the strongest ones in the third year.

Straight lines - Cultivated selfs of original Paraguayans do not sprout at all in the first year after collection. Second year germination is nearly as bad based on only a few lots. Our only third year lot has sprouted a little better and produced several strong seedlings.

Crosses - We were able to grow multiple Paraguayans last year for the first time and cross them in limited numbers. The resulting seeds have sprouted very well (nicked though not spontaneously) and produced strong seedlings, more vigorous than any domestics.

For us, germination of the Argentinian seeds has not occurred, either in the first or second year after collection, more or less consistent with the Paraguayans. There is some question in our mind that all the wild seeds may have been collected somewhat prematurely. This could affect germination but all offspring collected here have been fully mature and, so far, show the same sprouting characteristics. 

V. cruziana - domestic 

Because all domestics originated from seeds of "Tricker's Variety", straight lines that we call the Tricker line and the Longwood line were carried on for limited generations after their receipt by William Tricker. They were blurred when interchanged at various times, including our purposeful cross of them in 1999. We had no idea at the time that the straight lines would die out or that it would prove to be important. We now wish that we had carefully perpetuated the lines for comparison with each other and with wild cruzianas.

Straight lines - were said to sprout well but we have no actual documentation. We now have experience with several selfed lines from our 1999 cross. Two of them, originally siblings, sprout very well in the first year after collection, poorly after that. Another very large lot has not sprouted at all in four years of attempts.

Crosses of these straight lines sprout very well in the first year and poorly after that. Crosses of these crosses do not sprout at all in the first year and we don't yet have data for the second year.  

The experience described above leads us to speculate about the possibility of a built-in germination trigger. It is not surprising that crosses of the species would be stronger than selfs. What is surprising is that amazonica and wild cruziana seem to follow the same patterns, crosses sprouting early on and selfs sprouting several years later. This is contrary to our experience with domestic cruziana.

We know little about pollinators of cruziana in the wild. None were observed by Walter Pagels, Jorge Monteverde and Butch Weaver on their trips. What if many, if not most, seeds in any given pod are selfs, engineered to germinate several years later if the population of crosses (limited but vigorous) is threatened?

Much has been observed and written about the beetle pollinators in Amazonia and there has long been a presumption that many, if not most, seeds in an amazonica pod are crosses. This could account for the early and flurry germination of wild (presumably crossed) seeds and cultivated crossed seeds. The weaker selfs are held in reserve for emergencies in the wild and are more difficult in cultivation.

The primary hybrids add their own interesting patterns. Most, though not all, lots of 'Longwood Hybrid' sprout at nearly 100%. Very few 'Adventure' seeds sprout spontaneously. Some sprout after nicking but the best results are obtained after a second nicking. Seedlings of both hybrids are stronger than either species with 'Adventure's' survival rate even higher than Longwood's. Longwood must have the "sprout gene" and 'Adventure' the "don't sprout gene". As a side note, Longwoods with wild and domestic cruziana parents sprout equally well. 'Adventures' sprout equally poorly.

The back-cross hybrids 'Challenger' and 'Columbia' (3/4 cruziana) don't sprout at all well unless nicked but seedlings are very strong. 'Atlantis' and 'Discovery' (3/4 amazonica) sprout nearly as well as 'Longwood Hybrid' and seedlings are vigorous. Though we no longer produce selfed seeds (F2s) of the primary hybrids, in past years when we did so, germination was high for both 'Adventure' F2 and 'Longwood Hybrid' F2 but not as high as for 'Longwood Hybrid' itself. Though our information about subsequent generations is limited, we think that sprout rate as well as seedling vigor would drop with each selfed generation, consistent with other selfs.

The domestic cruziana sprouting patterns almost have to be ignored for our other observations to make any sense. As has been suggested before, we have either reprogrammed them in long cultivation or they have been corrupted somewhere along the line. DNA studies are in progress to determine which is true. The domestics don't fit what we are beginning to see as consistent and predictable patterns otherwise and perhaps have clouded observations of Victoria in general and cruziana in particular in the past.

Though it is extremely unlikely that Victoria will ever be high enough on the scientific study list to determine this, it would be very interesting to know if there is indeed a "sprout gene" and how it is passed on. For now we can only speculate, continue to collect data and guide our breeding program based on our best guesses of what the future holds.

Review our speculation about Victoria cruziana year by year
Seeds of the Century
| 2001 The Cruziana Clock | 2002 Crazy Cruziana
2003 A New Take On Victoria Species Germination &
Will The Real cruziana Please Stand Up

The Hurricanes
What Makes Victoria Seeds Sprout -- Or Not?
Survivor Paradise

Reflection Gallery Month By Month

 1998 The Adventure Begins | 1999 The Adventure Continues
2000 A Very Bad Year | 2001 A Banner Year
2002 An Even Better Year | 2003 We Like It Like This
2005 Recovery | 2006 Normal? | 2007 Weird | 2008 Year of the Hare
2009 Year of the (White) Tortoise

 Our Adventure Overview
Index to all years

Waterlilies | Lotus | Aquatic Plants | Victoria | Our Adventure With Victoria
Water Gardening | Water Gardening Friends | New This Month
Kit & Ben Knotts | Our Garden | Search The Site | Home 
Email Discussion List | Site Map