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                                        Know Your Seeds

Clematis seed can be found in all shapes and sizes and as a quick guide to help you understand what is good seed and what is not then please read on.

Generally clematis seeds are made up of what is the seed or to give it its proper name an achene connected to which is usually (but not always) a long plumose (feathery) tail. The seed pod itself can be a few mm to over 10mm across, but how do you know what is and is not good seed.
Lets take a look at the sequence of photographs starting with the basics:-

The seed itself is made up of the seed pod or achene and usually a feathery tail. Note the seed on this example has a brown seed pod which indicates it is ripe and ready for sowing.

Seed heads of some clematis are quite easy to spot as they take on a somewhat spidery appearance (especially those with long tails). The tails on the first example are still quite sleek and shiny which tells us the seeds are not yet ripe.
This can easily be shown by snipping off the tails and the green seeds are then exposed.
Seed heads bearing ripe seed are generally very fluffy in appearance and by just touching the seed head the brownish seeds will easily break away.
If you wish to send seed to the seed exchange or even if you wish to grow it yourself the seed tails are not necessary for sowing
and can be carefully cut away using a pair of sharp scissors. The seed can then be cleaned of dirt and dust. These actions will also aid sorting at the other end and also stop those creepy crawlies getting packaged in with the seed (it is accepted that on some of the smaller seed this is not always practical).
If you wish to store the seed or send it off to the seed exchange you should gently detach the ripened brown seed, clean them off and place them in a dry envelope which should then be sealed. Most importantly of all the name and date the seed was collected should be written on the envelope. If your ripened seed is damp you should let it dry out in an airy position before cleaning them and placing in the envelope. Seed which has only partially ripened (still slightly green) is still viable as it can be left to ripen again in an airy position before placing in an envelope.

As an additional aid here follows pictures of what is infertile seed (i.e. that which has not been fertilised and does not bear seed). You can see from the picture on the right that the seed tails although being quite fluffy are very short and stubby. If you touch the tails they break away quite easily and bear no seed although it is sometimes falsely assumed that the small black area which was once the ovary is viable seed but unfortunately it is not. As a contrast look at this last picture which shows a half fertilised seed head, the fertilised seeds are easily distinguishable by the much longer silky seed tails attached to the as yet un ripened seed. The infertile seed tails are much shorter and have already become quite fluffy.
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