WEC update / Insect larva infestation

Just to recap, many of these 100+ diploid WEC embryos were sown in a dark seed raising mix 3 days ago:

That mix as you know, was known to have a big infestation of larvae at the time of the sowing, however I twice drenched the media with copious boiling water, and let it cool down, and then sowed them. I did not have time or set up to do propper pasturization.

Well…as of this morning, there is definitely still no evidence of larval activity in that pot, and numerous of these embryos are now just starting to break the surface, and there are a whole lot more of them popping up compared to the other nine pots with similar quality WEC embryos but which had not been sowed in heat-treated media, and got ravaged by the larvae.

I am real confident that this last pot is showing signs of great success!!!

Thanks all for your help, which saved at least these babies form certain mass demise!!!

Hi Larry D!

I am also particularly real thankful to you about your cautious advice regarding the potential toxicity of urea and ammonium compounds incorporated in some commercial fertilizers, to plants in sterilized media, where there are no bacteria to convert it to useable/safer nitrogen compounds.

The commercial soluble N-P-K fertilizer I am using (at 10% X full strength for newly emerged seedlings), contains the following analysis for Nitrogen:


Nitrogen as Nitrate 8.8%

Nitrogen as Ammonium 3.6%

Nitrogen as Urea 2.6%

Total Nitrogen 15%

So it looks like 6.2% of the w/w nitrogen content is a potential worry, whilst 8.8% of the w/w nitrogen component of it is ok…is that right??

Do you think this nitrogen analysis might be just sort of ok for the job of fertilizing newly sprouted seedlings (at 10% of full strength), in media that will be pre-heat treated?? (my germinating media will from now on always be heat treated!!!)

That formulation is far better than we can get in the U.S., without doing some real searching. My inclination is always to starve the plants rather than burn them up. You can usually tell by leaf color whether they are N deficient. I tend to keep them that way. So the 1/10 formulation if applied no more than 1/wk ought to be ok. Meaning that after 10 wk, they’ll have a typical outdoors dose. Possibly you could even double or triple that without problems, but I was thinking of types close to species that normally grow on low nutrient soils. The traditional HT and Floribunda, like the florist’s chrysanth or carnation, have been selected to tolerate really high soluble mineral fertility.

Full strength Hoagland’s solution which is used in our greenhouse or growth chamber work for plants well adapted to high solubles, works out to <1 gram of N per U.S. gallon or about 6.6 grams of your fertilizer. That’s about 1.5 tsp. Many plants do as well or better with 1/2 or 1/4 standard. Hoagland’s has no urea, no ammonium and hence much lower toxicity. If you check out hydroponics on the web they talk about how you need to use calcium nitrate (nitrochalk) rather than ammonium nitrate or urea. When you start with sterilized potting medium you are doing essentially a hydroponic culture with a peat-moss or perlite support.


I keep waiting for Sigourney Weaver to appear in your photos.

Hi Larry D.

Thanks again for all the extra information and advice. I’ll stop the daily dosing for those new seedlings in the heat treated media, and I’ll also check out some local hydroponics suppliers when I have a bit of spare time in the next few days, and see if I can get some non-urea/ammonium nitrogen preparations from them…this is awsome information!!!

Hi Michael…LOL!! you could be in for a long wait… rofl :slight_smile:

Funny stuff, Jadae! I wasn’t thinking Sigourney Weaver, but had thought of “DON’T go to sleep!” LOL Kim

Here is one of the above diploid embryo/seedlings breaking the surface today -just past 3 days from its sowing…it is healthy and there are no larvae wiggling around it. It is obviously one of those fast sprouters (as shown in the picture above of its siblings):

As you can see, the embryo/seedlings look no different to any normal seedling once they transform in the airy environment provided by being buried just under the surface of the seed raising media.

As I said above, if I can have a choice, I would much rather use a dark media, as the contrast it makes with the ivory/white embryos facilitates extremely accurate placement of the embryos at the time of sowing, which is critical IMO. Also, by using this dark seed raising media straight up, one eliminates the extra step of having to re-transplant the germinating seedlings into potting mix, as is required in the case of say sterile fine perlite/vermiculite.

I am also thinking that by using boiling water treatment on this type of media several times, instead of doing a full pasteurization cycle, not only am I being lazy, but perhaps there may be benefits to this “half-way trick”… maybe there will be enough heat provided to cause mass eradication of the larvae/insects in the mix, but at the same time there may not be enough sustained heat to completely eradicate the desirable bacteria/microflora it contains?!

I am suspicious that having never pre-heat treated my media in the past, might explain some of the huge variability of germinations I have observed with previous WEC runs…some excellent, some horrendously poor.

Live and learn, maybe a quantum leap has now been achieved in WEC results, time will tell.

Hi George,

“facilitates extremely accurate placement of the embryos at the time of sowing, which is critical IMO.”

Could you elaborate please- critical in regard to planting depth, spacing between seeds, identification as to where a seed was planted (spaces between seeds) etc.

Have loved your posts on this and appreciate the time you have spent enabling us to be a part of this.

I shuddered when you said they were in water 72 hours- I have some seeds in their achenes soaking for 2 months- I thought that was ok.

Am about to take the plunge and plant some in a few days; think will plant most in their achenes but think I shall “play” with a few and see if I can’t remove the achene and then resoak and plant.



In a way, its a compliment. I had a crush on her when I was a kid, lol. I think it was Ghostbusters I saw her in first. It was at the theater in with my grandma in Rapid City, SD that no longer exists.

I think part of Sigourney Weaver’s immense, durable popularity is that she is definitely smart (and pretty, duh) but she had a way of turning the most perverse worlds into something calm, understandable and relatable.

So, yeah, the pix are a bit “Alien” :slight_smile: but theyre really enjoyable.

>>>>“facilitates extremely accurate placement of the embryos at the time of sowing, which is critical IMO.”…Could you elaborate please- critical in regard to planting depth, spacing between seeds, identification as to where a seed was planted (spaces between seeds) etc>>>>>>

Yes, you got it exactly right Jim!!!

The WEC treated embryos (I am not talking about sowing seeds/achenes here BTW) I like to very accurately place/sow in the mix, not too deeply and not too superficially. I use a small toothpick to open a hole next to the embryo sitting on the surface of the dark sowing media, then carefully roll it into the hole with the same toothpick and spray over some of the mix to bury it very close to the surface, using a hand-held sprayer…is it a very much easier thing to do with the additional aid offered by the stark color contrast (ie. pearly white/ivory embryo against dark seed raising media).

When I tried doing the WEC embryo sowing into pure perlite (instead of the dark media), I found it a whole lot more time consuming, and at times I really wasn’t sure where the embryos were, how deep, and even if I had covered some too superficially and others too deeply. I hope that makes sense??

I am not suggesting perlite cannot or should not be used, remember Don suggested fine perlite, which I could not get that day. What I am thinking however is that it might be visually a piece of cake sowing white/ivory colored things against black things, compared to white/ivory things against white things…does that make sense??

Hey! Maybe someone can invent dark colored fine grade perlite LOL!!!

As for immersion times for water soaking embryos in WEC vs immersion times for water soaking whole achenes, well as you can appreciate, there is absolutely no relationship between the two concepts…

My crazy idea of using water as an alternative medium to cold stratification is purely experimental… Even though there now exists “proof of principle” that some OP Iceberg achenes can germinate normal seedlings after 8 weeks in cold water immersion, that is all I can report!!!

Hmmmmm…I am also thinking of doing a demo whereby I have an equal number of OP Iceberg achenes soaking in water for 8+ weeks in the fridge, and a parallel number of control ones, cold stratified in baggies/wet paper toweling, to make some sense of how the results actually compare.

I might do this, for fun, in our autumn, but whatever I do, I sure will be heat-treating the seed raising media!!

Hi Michael…you already know I totally love your humor and your ability to add miriad dimensions to topics here that can otherwise be quite, well, drab!!!

I particularly love your wit, and ability to throw all sorts of “unexpecteds” into your conversations here, and even throw in some cryptic ingredients from time to time…I am sure you have a lot of private laughs when reading some of these postings…In any case, entertaining is my primary intention here, “sharing experiences” is a close secondary motivation… its all quircky, very nerdy “plant FUN” rofl!!!


It really should be. The general vibe in the majority of my hort/landscape classes were “earthy, smart, fun and dirty” lol. I have never seen any other subject group of people with the same type of humor. You can even see it far back in decades in horticultural writings, newlsetters, etc. I think it is because both the willingness to get down and dirty, the connectivity to natual elements, the social aspect and the science all create an atmosphere unique to horticulture folk. The one thing I noticed in landscape design and landscape architecture is that a larger portion of the people tend to have a huge stick up their a**, lol. Only a portion of them are actually horticulture types. In contrast, designers in general are a finicky bunch. It isnt until you hit “high society” realms in horticulture that the positive atmosphere similarly degenerates.

Very interesting!!! ROFLOL


Thanks for your response-agree integral seeds and embryos in water are totally horses of a different color and yes, I had blurred that distinction when I made my comment- thank you for clarifying it for me.


Yes, I think real plant people are ""earthy, smart, fun and dirty. “” I use to go on the Garden Web forums a lot, mostly on the varied rose forums. I then discovered the Soil and Compost Forum and it was as you stated above. It was a hoot!. In the discussions and conversations there were no holds barred, from a discussion of using menstrual blood to human urine on the compost piles etc.; the stories of the latter were so funny. Politically most leaned to the left but there was one stalwart conservative who in the conversations would forcefully express his opinion and then get jumped all over by the liberals but it was all in fun like children having a pillow fight. Unfortunately, some prudes came on and were “shocked, shocked” at discussions about human wastes, etc. so certain topics could no longer be mentioned and most of the older members left.


haha, Ive had some women make me blush at nurseries, esp. after a certain age + horticulture types. They think young males are fair game, like its pay back to see how long it takes until the guy is ready to crawl out of his skin, socially, lol. I have to admit, its funny. Its extremely difficult to get me to blush. Some of them are pros, lol

I had one hort. teacher that I adored. She was pretty awesome. She was going through menopause during the year I took plant ID from her, and she would always ask if she could turn the A/C on. It was hilarious cause the majority of the education system runs through the cold months. So we agreed and just put on our coats, haha. I think that is rather telling of the general atmosphere as a whole group, and how willing hort types are willing to talk about “biology” lol. I didnt mind. Id rather know and not make someone needlessly suffer unless someone else had a health issue with cold air.

Hi Jim P!

Its ok, anyone can get confused with all this very busy embryo talk LOL!!


BTW Jim, I am really interested and would appreciate it if you could give me feedback on how well your 2 month water soaked achenes sprout!!

From memory I think you said some were out of OP (Pink) ‘Queen Elizabeth’??

As a matter of fact, I have extracted a few such OP QE achenes just for fun, from hips that had just started to turn color, from several different bushes. I did it last year, and then again last week using one hip.

Each time, I consistently found the embryos to be very shrunken in the achenes, there is a lot of air space between embryos and achene wall, which normally means a shrunken dead embryo, however these are very flattened embryos, some like flat triangles (instead of 3 dimensional curved ovals), and are very alive!!

They also possess a real thick papery testa, the thickest I have ever come across so far in my travels!!

I have twice now also found twins in the same testa, the last time was one week ago out of that one hip I used… this seems a very high rate of occurrence, given the small number of OP QE achenes I have worked on (possibly ??50 at a guess, in total for both years…I do not keep any records as such, just rely on memory).

These sort of emrbyo findings I have only ever seen on OP (Pink) Queen Elizabeth, and repeatedly so from different clones. I have no idea what this means in terms of weird seedlings??!!

If I were ever going to practice EE on achenes/seeds/embryos for the first time, I think OP QE would not be the best ones to try on, becasue of their totally bizarre architecture…maybe these architectural findings are related to local OP QE clones only, but I suspect not. Just my opinion/observation.


Here is one very precious WEC embryo/seedling which was in one of those pots that had fungus gnat larvae in it a few days back.

As you know the saga (boooring), it was removed out of the media, and placed in a jar of water whilst the media was drenched with boiling water twice, let to cool down, and the seedling was then re-sowed back into the same media.

It was doing very well since that happened a few days back, last time I saw it yesterday it had big fat cotyledons, and an emerging central bunch of tiny leaves, but this morning I woke up and found some critter has done this to it!!!

:frowning: :frowning: :frowning: :frowning:

I have carefully checked the central growth point with my pocket microscope (30X magnification., illuminated), and can confidently confirm that this “topping” has not affected the angle between where the cotyledons attach to the central stem. There is a small yet complete remnant of central stem above those points of cotyledon attachment, but the central growing tip is otherwise chewed off totally.

There was absolutely no visual evidence of fungus gnat activity when I scratched around the suruface of the mix, a few minutes ago.

Note also the preventative snail baits in the background of the picture (blue color)…there are no snail track marks in this or any of the surrounding pots, I can almost guarantee it is not a slug or snail related issue.

I did see cockroaches eating off the snail baits 2 nights ago, do these insects chew rose seedlings as well??!! LOL!!!

I have some other questions:

  1. Can side shoots emerge out of the angle that remains intact between the central stem and the point of attachment of the cotyledons?

  2. Is this a different predator to fungus gnat larvae?

3.Is there anything I should or should not do to try and keep this thing alive, now that this has happened?

I would almost certainly have been shot by my boss if I was a commercial rose breeder at this stage of my experience…roflol

I guess this could this be caterpillar damage.

Maybe I need to prophylactically treat the remaining seedlings for caterpillar (and related) predators??

No sruprise, that last seedling has gone to rose seedling heaven!

So near yet so far away.

Sorry for the “rose eulogy”, it makes me feel a little better about this particular one I was wanting for sooo long to have.

Sooo it just wasn’t meant to be, which is quite ok.

movin’ on now!

Happy X-Mas all.

You just need a 1" Sheltie to roam the seed beds.