When I first came across the word 'ephemeral' used for describing a species, I thought to myself 'what the heck is an ephemeral?'. I had absolutely no clue what the term meant, so I tucked the information away promising myself that I'd eventually learn it and carried on with my garden.
Simply put an ephemeral emerges from dormancy when the conditons are right and over a very short period of time, emerges from dormancy, blooms, sets seed and becomes dormant again awaiting for the next opportunity to wake.
Our local ephemerals, most belonging to the Lilium family notibly Erythronium, Trillium, and Fritillaria, in a matter of a few months conduct their entire growth and reproductive cycle. Some start to emerge in mid to late February by pushing up their unfurled their leaves. Soon flowers follow by the time the pollinators arrive or awake from dormancy. The moment the flowers are pollinated, the plant slowly goes into decline putting all of its energy into producing seed and storing reserves in its roots. By mid July, the only thing remaining are dried stalks with filled seed capsules perched on top. These stems easily fracture and topple by the simple act of walking past, wind or rain. The gentlest wind can dislodge seed into the mulch below.
When one collects seed from ephemerals, one has to keep a constant virgil and this maybe why you don't see this seed offered very often and its a little on the costly side because of the extra labour costs. This seed cannot be harvested until its darn well ready to. Early collection leads to immature embryos and less than desirable germination rates. With late collection, most of the seed has scattered...lost in the mulch. We try to keep our costs reasonable and provide information on germination and preferred habiat to enhance your growing experince. Some say that these seed are hard to germinate, but in truth are no more difficult than other seeds we sow. Good seed when given the proper conditions with spout and grow into healthy happy seedlings and eventually the mature plants we have invisioned in our minds.
Trillium ovatum: observations based on three years of growing from seed and the resulting plants. When harvested from the seed collected bags, the seed is cleaned and stored in the fridge. When the Autumn rains arrive, the seed is then soaked and the cold stratification process begins. This way we mimic nature. Soaking seed prematurely could seriously damage the immature embryo.
Soaked seed possess a soft yellow 'yolk' of sorts. These are not dislodged when placed in cold stratification outdoors. Come September small single lance shaped leaves emerge from each seed. The pots are placed in a cool greenhouse/cold frame. The bulblets that form stay near the soil surface and are naturally buried deeper under leaf mould that gradually accumilates over time. So its important to top dress any container grown plants. In the second to third year, the typical three leaved form appears. Its important to sow thinly. Transplant when dormant and gently prick out.