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Jardin botanique de Montréal Index Seminum

Sunflower (Helianthus cv.) gone to seed.
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Lise Servant)
Helianthus cv.

The Jardin botanique de Montréal’s Index Seminum was published annually from 1936 to 1995. Since 1997, it has been published every two years. Today, it is distributed to more than 600 botanical institutions and researchers across the world.

The seeds offered come exclusively from harvests in the wild of Québec and neighbouring provinces. Some species from our own collections are occasionally offered in the Index because they are rarely cultivated.

Careful harvesting

Harvesting is done from spring to fall and targets a great diversity of possible species and habitats. Unless there is a great abundance of seeds at a given site, only small quantities are taken in order to minimize the impact on natural populations. No species designated as endangered or threatened in Québec or Canada are harvested. Harvesting permits are requested and entry fees paid to parks and private grounds when necessary.

The Jardin botanique de Montréal does not sell its plants to the public, except during the Great Gardening Weekend and special flower sales at the Jardin botanique’s L’Orchidée boutique.

The Index Seminum's stages of creation

The first stage consists in identifying potential harvest sites. There are regularly visited sites, and new harvest sites are added to these each year that the Index Seminum is published.

Harvesting is done from spring to late autumn. Harvested fruits and seeds are placed in individual paper bags, and the harvest data are recorded on the bags. The plant must be formally identified, either in the field or later on by way of a specimen collected at the site.

Cleaning and registering seeds

Back at the Jardin botanique, the harvests are laid out on shelves for drying. In the case of seeds intolerant to desiccation, these are cleaned and stored in humid conditions. The task of cleaning seeds begins during the summer, but most of it takes place in the fall.

For export, seeds must be viable, clean, free of debris, and show no trace of insects or disease.

Publication and distribution of the Index

Harvests are then registered in our database and the Index is published.

Next comes the mailing of the Index to all traders, who will then make their choices and submit their orders. These will be filled and delivered as and when received.

Thus, the activity of seed exchange is a process that stretches over an entire year. From spring to fall, harvests are held. In late autumn, seed cleaning and production of the Index take place, and in winter the orders arrive and the seeds are mailed out.

Text adapted from the article by Denis Barabé and Édith Morin in the Quatre-Temps magazine, Vol. 17, No. 1.

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