Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mystery squash seeds

CEN recently presented a squash mystery (see her comment) - a winter squash medley that's left to the buyer (that's us, to figure out). She sleuthed it out, and identified the butternut variety that she wanted. But I also poked around trying to figure it out too.

I don't know if this was the packet of seeds that she saw, but I happened on to it at a local big box store, and it caught my eye ( I always love a plant mystery).

Sorting them out, there were definitely 4 seed types, but not in the 25% each that were advertised on the packet.

After some time spent looking at squash seed characteristics and images, I figure that the large seeds on the upper left are the acorn squash (a C. pepo variety), the seeds on the right are the spaghetti squash (another C. pepo variety), the seeds on the lower left are the butternut squash (a C. moschata variety), and the two whitish seeds are C. maxima (the Lakota squash).

I could easily be wrong, but this was my best guess!


  1. Brilliant!! This is indeed the same packet I purchased. And yes, there isn't equal distribution among the varieties in it either. (Fortunately for me, there are a lot of butternut seed, but people wanting lakota would be very disappointed. Caveat emptor.) I think you must be right on the identifications. Thanks for verifying the butternut for me especially! Love the photos!

    This is fascinating. I had never paid attention to seed before and now I'm looking at all my seeds to see if I can distinguish between types. A real challenge is the eggplant mix from the same company. Perhaps eggplants are not as diverse as squash; I could be wrong, but I don't believe they have classifications like pepo/maxima/moschata even though they vary widely in appearance. I do see some variation in the seeds, however--I think. I'll need to get a magnifying glass to sleuth this one out, if it's possible.

  2. I spent more time than I'd like to admit trying to ferret out images of the seeds of the different Cucurbita species -- not easy.

    But it helped, since there are small differences in seed morphology among the species that were characteristic, apparently.

    With (finally) finding good images, I'm thinking that I was on target. I guess we'll see when we use the seeds how their genetics matches their appearance....

    Eggplant cultivars will probably be hard! I think eggplants are mostly selections of Solanum melongena -- so probably the seeds will all look pretty similar, although the plants (and fruits) are dramatically different. But there could easily be some small differences that are characteristic.

    Good luck! I'm sure they'll all be tasty enough.

    I'm going to have to look into seed-saving and how reliable seeds are preserved, and why F1 hybrids are used so much by the commercial producers. Certainly, I understand about open pollinated varieties, but the various trade-offs may be illuminating.

  3. First time gardener. Thanks so much for your research. I bought the same packet and spent way too much time puzzling over the seed types rather than just planting. I'm heading out to my front yard garden spot and I am going to plant my squash seeds today for a late October harvest in Raleigh, NC. Thanks again, my prayers to Mother Nature were answered. Bountiful blessings, joy4gardener.

  4. I don't know if you will see this comment, but I would like to know if your guess ended up being true. I just bought this seed packet, and I would like to be able to identify the seeds. I sent an e-mail also, so please forgive the repeated request.

  5. I noticed this same packet available in the local Lowe's a couple of days ago (2/9/11) -- and I do think I have matched the species correctly. Good luck, PTL!


  6. Is CEN still active here? I wanted to know if the seeds she planted were a match to what the author, Lisa, had identified. LKW, did you find that Lisa identified them correctly? I am germinating seeds from this packet right now and would REALLY like to know what they are. I am skeptical about the ones identified as Butternut because this variety (as indicated on the back), is a more compact Butterbush variety. Thanks for your help.

  7. Hi, SoCalMonet-
    CEN has moved to Wisconsin, and hasn't made a comment for quite awhile, but I'm thinking that I was right in my ID of them. ('m LKW). Hope that helps! I don't know, however, what Burpee might be currently be marketing as their winter squash medley!

  8. Hi Lisa, thanks for your post. You know, I believe also that you are right. I was dying to know because I really wanted to plant spaghetti squash so I ended up buying a pack of just spaghetti squash and realized they were not the bigger white thick seeds of the identified Lakota. At least I know for sure so I can plant in my restricted space garden. I don't have acreage so I can only plant 1-2 vining winter types. Now if I could just tell which in my pack are the acorns vs. spaghetti. They are SO similar & size doesn't really help too much since they vary it seems. Well thanks. I sure got my share of viewing those 4 seeds. How did you discern between the acorn & the spaghetti? So similar.

  9. I'm thinking that it was largely size. But I did study seeds and their germination in a previous research life, so maybe I had a "search image" advantage. Good luck with a great gardening season!


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