Germination of Mandragora officinale Seeds
Answered by: Richters Staff
Question from: Patricia Striebich
Posted: Before April 1998

Hi - I have ordered from your catalog for a few years and have been completely happy with everything I’ve received, especially your skill in packing herbs so that they arrive happy and ready to grow. I have one question, however. I’ve ordered Mandragora o. seeds in the past and had absolutely no success at all. I’ve been able to germinate Atropa belladonna and Hyoscyamus niger/albus and have tried everything I can think of with the Mandragora seeds. Do you have any suggestions? I like to collect unusual plants that were grown by our medieval ancestors and would very much like to grow a large mandrake. I would be very grateful for any assistance or suggestions. PS - I live in Alaska, with extremes of day length, if that makes a difference.

Mandrake is a tempermental herb to grow from seeds. Even when one is successful in getting the seeds to germinate, the plants do not grow with vigour and they need to be coddled to succeed. Not much is known about the optimal sowing and pre-germination treatment of the seeds. We have no information on the effect of day length. Margaret Grieve, in her "A Modern Herbal" suggests that the seeds are best sown fresh from harvest. We are beginning to believe this because we generally get better results with seeds less than six months old. The problem is that there are no good stands of mandrake plants in North America, so we must rely on European sources. This means that the freshness of the seeds is not fully in our control, and we are at the mercy of European seed dealers who may or may not be aware of the rapid deterioration of mandrake seeds. At Richters, our mandrake seeds are as fresh as we can get them as we never carry stock past one season. In the future, we recommend that you place your order in January to get the newest crop seeds. If the seeds are not available, indicate that you are prepared to wait until the next harvest, even if that takes a year. We will backorder seeds if you specifically request us to do so. By the way, many customers reported success with our mandrake seeds this year (1996). In our own greenhouse trials, we got a few seeds to germinate a full 10 months after harvest.

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