The Q&A Archives: Seed Sprouting

Question: While planting some seeds from a grapefruit (freshly eaten) I assumed that they should be dried for a time first but planted them anyway - just to see. I then got to wondering, if they would sprout, why do they not sprout inside the warm, moist medium from which I liberated them? Is there a chemical or enzyme inside the fruit that prohibits seeds from sprouting until they fall to the ground and the flesh rots away? Are the seeds within a ripe fruit mature enough to sprout or do they need to go through a further drying/maturing stage? I know that such seeds as apple need to experience a certain chilling period, but surely not citrus. Just curious.

Answer: Actually, I have seen seeds sprouting inside a citrus fruit once or twice! Citrus seed sprouts readily when fresh and loses its viability as it dries. <br>You're right--some seeds have a chilling requirement that needs to be met before they'll sprout. Others require a certain amount of further maturation--called after-ripening--before they'll sprout. Still others use chemicals to keep the seeds from sprouting. Tomatoes, for example, will not sprout when taken fresh from the tomato--you need to ferment the seeds and gelatinous matrix to break down the germination-inhibiting substances. (Some tree seeds even need to be scorched by fire to stimulate germination!)<br><br>Some seeds have chemicals in the seed coat that inhibit the germination process. In nature, these chemicals are washed away by rain, ensuring a good environment for the young seedlings. Sometimes, a high potassium concentration in the fruit prevents seeds from sprouting. This may be the case with citrus fruits, I'm not sure.

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