Saturday, 21 September 2013

Wapato: The Seedy Side of Sagittaria

I'm a bit of demon for sowing interesting things and then forgetting about them. This has advantages and disadvantages. Many of the plants that fascinate me have seeds with dormancy mechanisms; in the absence of information on unlocking these, it's easiest to just sow them and hope that the spinning tumbler of fluctuating ambient temperatures finally cracks the code and allows them to germinate.

The disadvantage is the large number of pots and seed trays knocking around, which sometimes generates some criticism from my nearest and dearest.  And if the labels and pots become separated, as has been known to happen, things can get a little baffling.

Back in the spring (I think) I sowed some wapato seeds which I  had gathered from my plants in 2012 (I think). This is a signal lesson in why appending the sowing date on the label is a worthwhile undertaking. The seed tray was placed in a shallow receptacle which was topped up with water, in an attempt to create the kind of conditions most likely to encourage wapato germination. The months rolled by and nothing happened. The heat wave in July kept me busy watering other pots and I abandoned the wapato in favour of more deserving cases. The compost became completely desiccated and I presumed the wapato seeds had perished.

Then came the rain - lots of it. One day, in between torrential showers, I was dutifully following my instructions to create order out of chaos in the back yard and rediscovered the wapato tray.

Wapato, Sagittaria latifolia
I picked off a few small bittercress plants and was all set to reassign the compost as soil conditioner, when I noticed some small seedlings in one corner of the tray. At  first I thought they were pink purslane (Montia sibirica) a pretty (and pretty invasive) introduced wildflower. This aggressive beauty self seeds with great enthusiasm in our garden and any unguarded pot is soon infected with the pink plague.

And yet there was something alismataceous in their cast that made me pause. Wapato, unlike pink purslane, is a monocot, so I checked the next batch of emerging seedlings; they were wholly lacking in the paired cotyledons you'd expect to see in dicots like Montia sibirica. The wapato germination code has been cracked, although I can't help feeling that it would have been better for them to have waited until next spring. And probably better for me, because they don't look as though they're ready to survive the rigours of winter without my intervention.

Just as I was about to post this, I noticed a comment on the Radix Root Crops page from Tycho Rosehip. It turns out he has managed to sow and grow wapato this year. I've got a feeling his plants are now bigger than mine and I may ask him to reveal his secrets. 

2 comments:

Ottawa Gardener said...

Yes, garden neglect has the advantage of showing you how things can be done differently than you would have thought. I'm often amazed by what I find in various corners of my growing space like a couple peach trees that I had sown near an old compost bin. I nearly plucked them out in a weeding frenzy but my 'what the heck is that?' switch had been flicked and my hand hesitated.

As for pink purslane. This is something I've been lucking to locate. One man's plague...

Helen Gazeley said...

I'd like to mention your blog in my column in Kitchen Garden Magazine. Would you be kind enough to email me asap? helengazeley at aol dot com. Many thanks.

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