Question: What seeds sprout fastest?

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warren asked on February 18, 2017 22:48
108 | 2 answers | #13941

I'm working on the Timelapse Kit, and want to create an activity to "test run" a camera indoors over a shorter span of time before doing in the field monitoring (see #timelapse for some folks doing this).

The reason is that doing a 24 hour or less test will reveal any issues much faster than putting it outdoors and waiting a week or more.

So I'd like to propose that folks sprout some seeds and take a timelapse of that -- since it's kind of interesting, it's not fast enough to be visible to the naked eye, and seeds are easy and cheap to get a hold of. It's a good dress rehearsal, so to speak.

But what kinds of seeds sprout fastest?

I've started with chia seeds but they took 3 days to sprout at all... surely warmth would help, but that's still pretty slow.


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2 Answers

Try radish. They are easy to find as garden seeds this time of year. Other mustards are probably good too (cabbage, arugula, any mustard green). But radish seeds are a little bigger than many mustard greens.

But for easier photography, a bigger bean seed might be better.

The germination of most garden seeds is strongly sensitive to temperature. At 80°F radish seeds might germinate overnight, but at 55° it can take a week.

If the seeds are big enough, do an experiment and rub each seed against fine sandpaper. See if they germinate faster than side-by-side seeds which are not scarified.

Or drizzle vinegar on half of the seeds.

Or put a heating pad under half of the seeds. Or put half of the seeds nearer to a cold (not sunny) window.

Also, it takes a day or so for many seeds to imbibe water. Soak the seeds for a day on wet paper towels in a cool place. Then move to a warm place and start the photography. The germination will happen independent of the more variable imbibing process and be somewhat synchronized.

So maybe use a big photogenic bean seed, but soak them for a day or two before photography starts, and then keep the temperature above 75°F.

Or just wait for the seeds to start germinating before you start the photography.

Other good 24 hour timelapse science observations:

  • cut apples, bananas, or potatoes browning
  • lettuce or flowers wilting
  • dehydrated houseplants recovering
  • indoor snowman or ice sculpture melting


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Chris' answer is great. I was also going to write in about radish seeds specifically, and generally the need for warmth to signal seeds to sprout. I also like the idea about other observable phenomena -- reminds me of a drawing exercise where we had to keep a green bell pepper on our desk and draw it every day for a month.

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