Behind the scenes
Harvesting, storage, and germination
The optimal storage and germination of seeds requires a lot of expertise and actions. Everything starts with correct identification. This is best done when the plants are in bloom. We harvest the seeds when they are just ripe. This is crucial, because unripe seeds do not keep well.
Immediately after harvesting we clean the seeds carefully and dry them until their moisture content is between 5 and 10%, in order to maximise their lifespan. During this whole process we also give the seeds an identification code and record all the necessary data in a database.
The seeds are then stored at a low temperature in a cold room or freezer, depending on the intended storage period.
To gain insight into the viability of the seeds, we carry out germination tests immediately after harvesting and at regular intervals during the storage process. Each species has its own preference in terms of temperature and light for germination. The specific light and temperature conditions necessary for germination are simulated in incubators or germination boxes.
It takes a lot of knowledge and research to find the right germination conditions. Seeds are programmed to germinate at the most optimal conditions for the seedlings. These conditions depend on the ecology and habitat preference of the species. Seeds can respond to a range of environmental signals, such as temperature and light, that ensure germination occurs at the optimal time. At Meise Botanic Garden, we mainly study the germination requirements for species from temperate climates, including endangered Belgian plant species (link to Belgian flora). We also have a lot of expertise on species from the DR Congo and on wild relatives of bananas. (link to Wild Banana page)