W.J. Beal’s Long-Term Seed Viability Study: 1879-2012 Frank W. Telewski Professor, Dept. of Plant Biology Curator, W. J. Beal Botanical Garden & Campus Arboretum Michigan State University Professor William James Beal, born March 11, 1833, Adrian, Michigan; died 1924. Attended Univ. of Michigan 18551859 (A.B. degree) Taught natural sciences in Friend’s Academy, Union Springs, NY 18951861 Attended Harvard 1861-1863 to study with Asa Gray, Louis Agassiz and Jeffried Wyman (S.B. degree) Question: How long can seeds remain viable in the soil? • Farmers needed weed control • Mechanical removal (cultivation) • No herbicides! • Labor intensive Experimental Design • • • • • 21 different species selected 50 seeds of each Mixed in moderately moist sand Twenty lots (1-pint bottles filled with mix) Set upside-down, slanted, and buried uncorked on campus • 2 species, oak and black walnut buried next to the bottles In 1879 Prof. Beal buried 20 bottles containing 20 species of seed. What was included in the bottles? • • • • • • • • • • • Agrostemma githago- corncockle Amaranthus retroflexus- pigweed Ambrosia artemisifolia- ragweed Anthemis cotula- stinking chamomile Brassica nigra- black mustard Bromus secalinus- rye brome Capsella bursa-pastoris-shepherd'spurse Erechtites hieracifolia- American burnweed Euphorbia maculata- spotted spurge Lepidium virginicum- peppergrass Malva rotundifolia- Round-leaved Mallow • • • • • • • • • • • Plantago major- broadleaved plantain Polygonum hydropiper- marshpepper knotweed Portulaca oleracea- Common Purslane Setaria glauca- yellow foxtail Stellaria media- chickweed Trifolium repens- white clover Verbascum thapsus- common mullein (Verbascum blattaria- moth mullein) Oenothera biennnis- evening primrose Rumex crispus- curly dock Thuja occidentalis- eastern white cedar Time Periods • • • • Professor Beal (five years)- 1884-1909 Professor Darlington (five years)- 1914-1920 Professor Darlington (ten years)- 1930-1960 Drs. Kivilaan and Bandurski- (ten years) 19701980 • Drs. Telewski and Zeevaart- (20 years) 2000 What Germinated? • After first 5 years, 13 species germinated • Remained fairly constant until 30th year • By 60th year, only Verbascum was germinating regularly. • In year 100, both Verbascum and Malva germinated What Germinated in 2000? 25 Verbascum blattaria (50%) 1 Malva rotundifolia (2%) 5 more bottles left. Next bottle to be extracted? 2020 122 year-old biennials In 1998, 125th anniversary of the founding of the W. J. Beal Botanical Garden, a new garden logo using the moth mullein flower to symbolize the contribution and longevity of Prof. Beal’s work, was adopted.