Question: What seeds sprout fastest?

warren is asking a question about trial-run
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by warren | February 18, 2017 22:48 | #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.


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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