Alternative title: Two for the Price of One!
by Jörg Witticke, Beyernaumburg, Germany
Chamaerops No.34 Spring 1999
A few years ago I attended the summer meeting of the
EPS in the city of Rome. Daring the trip I collected from the Rome
Botanic Gardens some seeds of Butia capitata and Butia eriospatha
These seeds were duly taken home for germination. But what a surprise
T got when I found that some seeds had developed not just one primary
root, hut two or three! I wanted to know more about this phenomenon
so I consulted my palm books. None, however had any mention of such
occurrences. I am therefore forced to write my own experiences on
TWINS I call it. That is, two plants developing from
one seed. Although rare in the plant kingdom it does appear to occur
again and again. It occurs in palms with a frequency which varies
from species to species. According to observations there are two
fundamental conditions for TWINS development in palm trees. Each
palm seed has either one or three germ pores, as I would like to
call them, which can be recognised as the point at which the initial
root is forced out. The clearest example of these germ pores is
in the coconut palm Cocos nucifera These seeds have three such pores
and can be easily seen grouped together at one end of the seed.
Other palm seeds also display these pores. The date palm has only
one pore at the broadside opposite the logtitudinal groove.
However three germ pores alone do not in themselves
guarantee development of more than one primary root. Behind each
pore a separate germ chamber can be found. (This can be easily seen
by cutting across a Butia capitata seed). The coconut in fact has
only one germ chamber, thus it fails in respect of TWIN development.
Palm species as a rule have only one germ pore. There are however
exceptions. On occasion, palms develop a double seed, that is, two
seeds are grown inside one single fruit. This often occurs in the
species Caryota urens, one frequently gets two seeds and now and
again both seeds will grow together. I have already had such seeds
although up to now only one of the double seeds has germinated.
I have been informed that a Sabal species has had both seeds of
a double seed germinate.
What it is that triggers the development of TWINS
from seeds with more than one germ pore I do not know. I proceed
on the assumption that a hereditary ability exists. This supports
my observations as I have observed the development of two primary
roots from seeds of only certain mother trees. The development of
TWINS occurs more often than one might expect. I have personally
observed it several times. I have friends who have also observed
it. The first time I discovered this peculiarity was in the seed
of the species Maximiliana that I had received as Maximiliana regia
To date though I have been unable to find mention of this species
in any palm literature. My experience with Maximiliana was the last
time I witnessed the frequent development of two germ roots.
I shall now mention the Butia capitata and B. eriospatha
seeds I collected from the Rome botanic gardens and also some seeds
of Butia paraguayensis which I collected whilst at the 1997 summer
meeting in Almunecar, these have also germinated as TWINS. After
germination I let the germ roots develop a short while prior to
planting in to individual pots. I was then able to observe the development
of two germ roots in the Butia seeds very well. Some of these Butia
seeds even developed triplets. The individual germ roots break out
on a successive basis with up to 15 days separating the initial
sighting of individual germ roots. Only rarely have I observed two,
not to mention three, roots developing simultaneously. It appears
this delay in the development of the second primary root can be
quite long. I have observed a seedling, which has suddenly put up
a second initial germ leaf, giving the appearance that two seeds
must have been in the one pot. I cannot however, comment on the
future development of such TWINS. Of my Maximiliana seedlings one
suffered the death of both germ roots at an early stage, the other
developed as a normal single plant. A friend of mine has told me
that it is normal for only one of the germ roots to develop a primary
Of my Butia twins/triplets I can say that the individual
plants of one seed are well developed and there are no differences
when compared with plants which have emerged as SINGLES from a seed.
I believe this is due to the fact that each develops from an individual
germ chamber, thus each plant has an equal amount of nutrients.
My seedlings of Butia paraguayensis are still too small to comment
23-03-19 - 23:09GMT
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