Why was my seed not viable?

deanna_in_nh(5a/4b)July 25, 2010

I saved some seeds from last year and they didn't grow a thing, hoping for some help.

I saved Alma Potschke aster seeds, which are supposed to viable and true to seed. The aster pods got completely fluffy with a nice brown seed. In fact, I harvested in late fall and then also actually went out into the garden during the snows of Dec or Jan and harvested some really ripe pods off the plants. These were hung upside down in a paper bag so they could dry. After several days the seeds were removed from the pods.

Nothing grew! The seed pods were ripe with a brown stem and fluffy head, they stayed on the plant more than long enough to mature, and they were wintersown.

The only thing I can think is that some early October frosts ruined the seeds? We had a cold October with some snow dustings and frosts. Then November was WARM. Could the cold of October have damaged something in the flower that is part of the ripening processes? I know we lost our peaches this year because a late frost damaged the stolens/styli (I think) in the bud necessary for pollination, even though the buds themselves looked great. Can similar things happen to ripening seeds?

I traded these seeds with somebody, and feel very terrible that they weren't viable. I'd like to know this year what to do so I can send her a boxful of seeds!

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Hi Deanna,
You did nothing wrong. Asters are notorious for producing many non-viable seed. On the link below, it explains why in the Nature Unexplained section.
You may have given the trader viable seed, but you could always contact them and let them know you had no luck offing to make up for it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tom Clothier Seed Viability Article

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 7:08PM
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could be a slug or someother seed-eating creature got in there also.

I am hoping to gather some seeds from a new Alma myself this year!


    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 6:50PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Deanna, according to Bill Cullina's book on native wildflowers, Asters are self-infertile. This means that you need at least 2 genetically different individuals that cross-pollinate with each other to get viable seed. For example, you need another cultivar of New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) besides Alma potschke, that blooms around the same time.

Is Alma Potschke the only New England aster that you have? If so, you won't get viable seed from your plant.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 12:43PM
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That's very helpful. Amazing how few resources ever mention that! I hope to get another Aster novi-anglae this fall, like Purple Dome, so maybe this fall I'll have some cross-pollinating happening. We have plenty of wild aster around here, but I'm sure none of them were close enough to get any pollination. In the garden, the Alma's rule the NE Aster world....but only for a little while longer!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2010 at 3:42PM
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caryltoo Z7/SE PA

Great info. I have a couple asters that are just blooming and was thinking of saving seeds. Now I know I can't since they're all from the same seed. And I've got no idea what variety they are, so I'm not even sure about buying another variety.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2010 at 7:26AM
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