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germinating 19th c. seed

Posted by hamilton1812garden none (My Page) on
Thu, Jul 26, 12 at 7:57

I write on behalf of the 1812 Garden at Hamilton College (New York). We are planning to attempt Shaker heirloom seed recovery and wonder if anyone has any advice or contacts who might be able to assist us... or any sense if there is any possibility of success.

Our college has a substantial collection of Shaker ephemera, including a number of packets of seeds from the mid-19th century. We have received permission from our Special Collections to attempt to grow some of these seeds. While we are not at all confident that our experiment will yield plants, we think it's worth the effort, even if only as an instructive experiment for our students.

Are you aware of any such efforts to grow out Shaker seeds of this age? What methods might increase our chance of success?

We don't have much information on the conditions under which the seeds have been stored. They have been kept dry... at lest there is no indication of any moisture damage. I attach a jpg

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: germinating 19th c. seed

I hope that you will seek the expert advice from such institutions as Cornell, the Smithonian, etc. I'm not entirely sure that a public forum is the best resource for information regarding this important collection. I'd think that you would want to seek out some sophisticated scientific methods regarding the ideal methods of germination. Besides anything that any of us might have to offer.

Any chances that these seeds have remained viable will be
determined almost exclusively on how they have been preserved
over the years. It's not unheard of for very old seeds to retain
a bit of life, but not likely if they've been stored in paper packets in the bottom of a box found in an attic....if you know what I mean.

You'll get lots of interesting opinions here, that's for sure. This will be an interesting thread to follow. Can you tell us how you came upon this fascinating collection? We will all want to know details, details!

RE: germinating 19th c. seed

We have indeed reached out to a seed specialist at Cornell as well.

The seeds came to the Hamilton College Special Collections as part of a gift of Shaker ephemera. We are trying to find out a bit more about the provenance of the seeds. At this point all we know is that some years ago an original Shaker box of seeds was found in some rural shop...and individual packets were sold to collectors. The head of our Special Collections thinks he knows who has the box itself and he is making further inquires. The college is acquiring a larger group of seed packets in the near future, many of them unopened with the seeds. The packets in the photo were opened by a conservator to protect the integrity of the packets as well as the seeds. We will attempt to grow only a small portion of the seeds from the packets.

Will keep you updated as we learn more.

RE: germinating 19th c. seed

I should think that either Cornell or the Smithsonian should either know or else know where to refer you. The only reason for contacting someone at, let's say perhaps, is in the case of Cornell and the Smithsonian saying we don't know.

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