Seeds: learning what I can from what I have
I have been going through my saved seeds recently - actually the *first* time I’ve gone through them like this, ever. In the eternal way of bagseed, I began saving around the time the 70s turned into the 80s, and continued to do so until I graduated from seeded to seedless sometime in the new century.
I combed through each batch of seeds before stashing them away, removing the hollow seeds, the cracked and crushed and broken seeds, before putting each batch into gram-sized ziplocks and tucking the the thing away. They fall into two categories: labeled and unlabeled; most of the labeled are cryptically done, and not all are dated. Each baggie represents the seeds from a single bag, the seeds as few as 2 and as many as 35.
The unlabeled seeds also fall into two categories: single-batch, and bulk. I can’t actually remember how I came to have several sizable batches of seeds numbering in the hundreds, but I have them, and they outnumber the single-batch count by a big margin. They represent every aspect a seed can take: tiny up through huge; practically round to significantly misshapen; pale grey to dark to nearly black; mottled to tiger-striped to featureless.
These are the ones I went through last night, with a bright LED light and a magnifying glass, looking for any I had missed in the original cull before packaging. I only found a few - less than ten in maybe a thousand seeds, and those were chipped. I had the intention of culling any otherwise whole seeds that seemed unviable, but there were none. Rubbing them gently with my thumb while they lay in my palm, they clearly didn’t have the vibrance or the luster of fresh seeds, but they did have their own shine, and felt solid.
Since these are bulk, as I say, all I know about them is that I saved them poorly, even though they too were zip locked and kept cool and dark over the years. But since the only obvious “fault” with them is their lack of history, my current plan is to sort them by size, then by appearance. From the looks of it, the largest group will be midsized and either mottled or tiger-striped; from whichever group ends up being most numerous, I expect to take samples for my experiments into germinating and growing old seed.
There is of course a mystery bag among the mystery bags: two small amber glass vials (one 20% full, one 60% full) and another 50-100 loose seeds, all in a single bag. The loose seeds seem uncalled; I haven’t opened the vials yet. Okay, two mystery baggies: the second one holds 20-30 seeds, rolled up tight in a baggie secured by a hair-elastic, by itself inside another baggie (of course there’s no note or marking to give me a clue, but clearly I thought these were special.
That’s it for the unlabeled category: let’s have a look at the marked batches!
3-90-1: 28 seeds, all the same size, color, and shape
DATE and/or TAG:
HM-2-91: 24 good-sized seeds
Domestic Indica C: 30 uniform larger seeds
Jamaican Sativa B: ~50 uniform, medium size, brown/grey
GA DWARF 85: 2 seeds, dark medium-small
Belize Sativa D: ~30 uniform dark, small
Hot Green A ‘85: ~70 uniform, med-small, brown/grey
Mexican late ‘85 A: ~50 uniform, small, very brown
Those are the least-well documented: next are the ones with actual NOTES!
7-89-2: a baggie with two rolled-up baggies inside
“Commercial-looking green, intense fragrance
“Pretty stone - bh; makes concentration hard, makes thinking difficult
“24 big fat and speckled, 48 small and uniformly brown
“Single oddball seed from different, very good batch”
7-89-1: another baggie in a baggie, with a note, outer baggie taped closed
“7-11-89: fresh, sweet-smelling, moist. Buds smallish, tight, dull green
“No sign of glands, definitely sticky on breaking
“Two tokes, effects center around throat chakra, heart chakra, pretty balanced
“Four tokes, DEFINITELY STONED
“Broke 3 smallest buds, got 25 seeds: 3 smaller, medium brown, look ok if unexceptional
“22 uniformly glossy, large, dark and tiger-striped beauties
“Character: light and strong, clean and energetic
“INDICA-SATIVA CROSS? INDICA DOMINANT?”
(I had to cut that outer bag open to get at the note)
8-89-1 (another double-bagger):
“Undistinguished-looking dull green, seeds smallish, uniform, some strongly-figured, some quite blah
“Buds small, unevenly dried, very sticky, no glands visible, poor manicure
“Distinct sift in consciousness; strong but not brutal; non-sleep-inducing;
“Space, yet focused, directable. SATIVA?”
That’s the end of the ones with notes.
Most of these bags have not been opened since they were first zipped up and tucked away. ALL of this is bagseed: all of it came through the US southeast in the 80s/90s, either as the general run of commercial, or as something special my bro shared with me (all my greens came to me through him, for 35 years).
You can tell by the notes that none of it was dependably identified unless I tagged it with a name, and even that is suspect: being told it’s X or Y means you’re told, *not* that it’s actually identified.
So what have I learned from all this? That I should have taken better notes, for one thing. For another, I’m struck by how internally similar the various batches are in terms of the seeds aspect. It almost seems that one could go through the bulk pile and figure out which seeds are from the same or similar plant/strain. It will be interesting to see the results of the sorting.
In addition to these, I picked up some modern seeds from Cannaventure, mostly feminized, but there’s also some regular CookieWreck in there, from which I hope to find a male with the Trainwreck phenotype: Grey Wolf has said several times it’s his favorite medicine.
I bring up the Cannaventures because those seeds are universally small and pale grey, which tells me not to be an appearance snob when it comes to judging seed.
I’ve been told you can’t tell much by looking at seeds, but so far I disagree.
As I go though my old seeds, I notice that some small batches have seeds that are highly uniform in size, color, and markings; I have also noticed other batches where the seeds run the gamut in size, and in color, and in markings. I have also noticed seeds that vary in *shape* as well.
What I draw from this so far is that some batches seem to be the produce of single parents, that is a single male and a single female. Other batches, OTOH, seem to be the result either of a single female pollinated by many males, or of mixed females with mixed male pollinators. There is of course the possibility that the larger containers (showing the most variations) are from multiple batches of herbs, but it’s *in* those containers that I find not only the greatest variety in appearance, but they are also where I find the misshapen seeds, and certain apparent types: large, light-brown, and speckled is one such type.
At some point, I expect I’ll come up with a classification system by size, shape, color, and markings. Also, at some point, I will separate these mixed bags by size (small, medium, large, weird), then by color (grey, dark brown, light brown, nearly-black), then by markings (none, speckled, mottled, striped, tiger-striped). As the sorting progresses, these ad-hoc categories may change.
I don’t expect that this sorting will tell me anything crucial, but from where I am now, I do *suspect* that there will be a considerable population of each size, and at least some of the colors and markings. I doubt this will tell me whether they are from sativas or indicas - hell, it might end up telling me more about the weather they were matured in; still, it will be interesting to discover whether the seeds’ characteristics tell me ANYTHING about the parents or the line. Still, I expect to learn from handling each type as its own type down the road, through germination and grow-out.
I have been studying about the germination of old seeds. It has been fascinating and frustrating: there’s a shit-ton of bro-science about how to germ seeds, and little of it makes sense to me, honestly - starting with the whole ‘moist paper towel’ scheme. I have learned some genuinely useful things, though. For one thing, the near-universal hydrogen peroxide soak: it turns out that, aside from sterilizing the seeds’ exterior, a sufficiently dilute H2O2 solution plays a role in ‘priming’ the seed for germination. Also, worm castings seem to be the single most effective/reliable way to germinate; all other methods are hit or miss, from my reading. Worm poop seems to be custom-made for getting seeds to hatch. Fulvic acid and beneficial microbes and fungus are right up there with the castings. I still have more reading to do, I have hardly dug deep, but I have plenty of range for experimentation already. More eager to begin the project than suits my situation, but that’s par for me. Sadly, it will be some months at least before I’m in a position to do more than continue to search through the seeds.... at the rate I’m going, it may take me that long to go back through everything and extract the waste. While most of the seeds seem to be in very good condition, honestly, some of the batches received greater scrutiny on the front end: going thru the mixed seed, I’ve noticed a fair number that are cracked, split, or chipped, and I intend to comb through them all and remove every one of these that’s damaged. I have an order out for a pair of self-illuminated magnifying binoculars (surprisingly cheap) which will certainly help, but for now, it’s just me, a small hand-held glass, and a small (but bright!) flashlight. I work in small batches: small enough to be able to examine individual seeds without getting lost in the mass. Any seeds that reveal unusual characteristics get set aside for closer examination, which includes rubbing the seeds firmly yet gently between thumb and palm. Most of the seed that survives this (the cracked and the chipped do not survive it) show a nice luster, suggesting viability. Seeds without this luster will be their own category.
Even before the first germination attempt, I have a project as engrossing, as painstaking, as time-consuming as any stamp collection....
What do I hope to get out of this, beyond seedlings that survive to maturity?
I hope to identify similarities and differences that will play forward, that will allow me to germ and grow these with a sense of direction; I hope to discover whether seeds of a category produce plants of a category that can be identified; I hope to produce sufficiently similar plants to enable them to be open-pollinated, revealing further similarities - and differences.
We talk a lot about “landraces”, and preserving genetic heritage, and resurrecting vanished strains, but once again, there’s less science than bro-science. Everyone has a favorite story...or at least, a favorite story teller: the old story is about landraces, about sativa and indica and ruderalis; the new story is about origins, about turning existing taxonomy on its head, about manufacturing an artificial legal reality out of the bones of the old.
Personally, I think the new story is bogus. It stinks of agenda, of manipulation, of science misused. It ignores observable reality in favor of a pet hypothesis, and I don’t like it. I can’t respect its purveyors. To me, a ‘landrace’ is no more or less than an open-pollinated, uncultivated stand of cannabis, and when I say uncultivated, I mean that it is not fussed over and seen to by gardeners: it is in essence ‘wild’. It is true that there are varieties: sativa, with long internode distance and narrower leaves, some which are higher and some lower in resinous products, and which grow tall when left to themselves; indica, with short internode lengths and wider leaves, ditto regarding resinous products, which do NOT grow so tall when left to themselves; ruderalis, short in all ways - leaves, stalks, internodes, of indifferent/unknown products. And then there’s hemp.
Hemp is in my opinion the key to the ‘problem’ with the new story, which wants to pretend that “hemp” is an entirely different kind of cannabis, one that has NO resinous products, is grown for fiber, and is cannabis sativa - and by extension, that cannabis sativa itself is without resinous product, despite the evidence of both history and modern experience. While it’s undoubtedly true that hemp grown for fiber *is* sativa, the current pretense is that sativa is only good for fiber and seed...and, perhaps hurds for paper, but that hasn’t entered into the modern pseudoscientific fairy tale. Given the morphology of sativa and its native growth habit, it’s not in question that sativa is the variety from which we derive hemp fiber: the other two simply cannot produce the long fibers required for rope and fabric; given the customary cultivation for fiber - that is, sowing the seed thickly to promote elongated growth - we can rule out ruderalis and indica, but this tells us nothing about the resinous products. It simply demands that we assume that fiber and seed are the ONLY produce we can get from sativa. Whether, as I say, sativa also produces the kind of pulp that has made hemp paper the standard for centuries, or not, has not been scientifically tested, much less verified. It may well be that hurds are the natural product of indica - again, a question unexamined by science.
Based on what remains of the voluminous scientific work done on cannabis, I must assume that fiber is the result of deliberate cultivation of sativa for the purpose of producing fiber which would of course ignore the resinous products as impedimentary to fiber production. For all I know, it may well be that indica produces hurds of quality and quantity when cultivated for that end. We won’t know until we’re free to try.
So: a landrace, then - being a freely interpollinated ‘community’ - can be expected to move toward homozygosity over time, and exhibit generally similar qualities of habit and product while still allowing for individuation among the various cultivars. The effort to *recreate* such a community would seem to depend on using members sharing fundamental similarities...and in a nutshell, THAT is what I hope to make steps toward in my minute sorting of these seeds.
This applies to the sorting of the bulk seeds in my care; it will also apply to those more specific ‘batches’ I hold. The variation I see in these bulk batches seems not to exist in the smaller collections, they tend to be quite uniform in size, in color, in markings, and I intend to treat each of these as its own genetic community, breeding them together in hopes of producing reasonably uniform plants as a result. I put little faith in the strain names applied to those few batches so labeled; instead, I hope to discover what they may actually be once they are grown out and interpollinated and those seeds grown out in turn, through as many generations as I can pursue.
Yes, I do have purchased seeds, of various parentage, most of them feminized (self-pollinated). I plan to use these primarily for my own medicine as well as medicine for others during my voyage of discovery: they should all produce fine medicine if I’m at all capable, all by themselves. I intend to acquire more such seed over time, Mandala’s Satori and Cannasutra from Delta9 in particular, but I plan no mixing of new stock with old until I have a few generations under my belt and have a much better idea of what I’m working with.
If these efforts pan out, it’s my hope to have genuinely stable varieties rescued from obscurity and available as seed and as medicine...and if I can shed any light on the questions of fiber and paper, that will be very good indeed. It to this end that I make these detailed notes regarding seeds, varieties and my intentions, as it would please me greatly to shed real light on some of the most persistent questions I’ve encountered in the course of a long life devoted to asking and answering questions....
May the gods, as they may be, bless my endeavors, guide my mind and heart, and aid me to produce fruit worthy of the effort!