Seed of the Week: Daffodil

The mystery seeds from last week were from a daffodil, Narcissus sp.

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Gardeners usually plant daffodils as bulbs, but the plants also make seeds.

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The seeds form in capsules.

Why don’t we plant more daffodils from seeds? It turns out that germinating daffodil seeds can be a bit tricky. The seeds often have special structures called “elaiosomes” that attract ants. The ants carry the seeds to their nest, where they eat the elaiosomes and toss out the seeds into their trash heap, which is usually a chamber in the soil. The conditions in an ant mound are often ideal for seed germination and the seeds eventually grow.

The relationship between the ants and the plants is quite specialized. The presence of the elaiosomes may even inhibit germination in some species, so the seeds won’t germinate until the elaiosome has been removed (by an ant). Cool!

It turns out that many plants, especially our spring wildflowers like Trillium and Viola, are planted by ants.

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It’s amazing what you can learn by being on the look out for seeds.

4 Comments

  1. Karen

    Very cool, about the ants and flower seeds. I knew that brown husk reminded me of something, but I never would have guessed a daffodil.

  2. Roberta

    I really didn’t know about the ants and daffodil seeds until I started looking into whether they would grow.

  3. Mathew

    Can I ask how many seeds does a daffodil usually produce when germinated

  4. Roberta

    According to this PDF from the American Daffodil Soc, it looks like up to a couple dozen seeds per pod. https://dafflibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/How_do_Daffodils_Grow.pdf

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