Now it looks like this:
I discovered these while on my witch hazel walk.
Lady Slipper Seed Germination
As related by William Cullina in The New England Wild Flower Society Guide to Growing and Propagating Wildflowers (affiliate link):
- “The typical lady-slipper seedpod contains between 10,000 and 20,00 seeds!”
- The reason they have so many seeds is because the seeds lack endosperm
- Without endosperm, the seeds are very light and are spread by the wind
- “Without endosperm, orchid seeds cannot germinate unless they become infected by certain soil fungi [Rhizoctonia mycorrhizae], which the seedlings partially digest to obtain the sugars and nutrients necessary for growth.”
- “Once a seedling has chlorophyll-containing leaves and a few roots, it . . . becomes less and less dependent on the fungus for survival.”
- “At least some species of Rhizoctonia are pathogenic or disease-causing when they infect nonorchidaceous species, such as members of the Mustard family.”
In my experience, adequate sunlight; moisture; and a well-aerated, good organic soil with adequate fertility is all adult lady-slippers need to grow well. In fact, even small seedlings that we have received in sterile bags (growing without mycorrhizae) grow on very well in a sterile, hydroponic mix. It seems clear that once the seedlings have passed out of the critical germination stage, they can grow well in cultivated conditions without mycorrhizae.
However, Cullina says that the pink lady-slipper I have does “not adapt well to cultivation.” I plan to leave them right where they are, and I’m not messing with the seed pods. But I learned a few things tonight and thought I’d share them with you.