Ashleigh Smith + photo

Ashleigh Smith

Dec 14
3 min read
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Vivipary - When A Seed Pre-germinates

Why Is My Seed Germinating Inside The Fruit?

A few weeks ago I was cutting a spaghetti squash in half when I came across a stray seed germinating from WITHIN the squash. I thought, “What in the world?” This was so weird to me. I have never seen that happen before. While it isn’t common, it can happen. This premature germination within the fruit is called vivipary. Since I found it interesting I thought I would share some information about it with you.

What Is Vivipary?

The name is latin based with a meaning of “live birth”. Basically the hormones responsible for advantageous germination are deficient. Because the seed no longer has hormones telling it not to germinate it moves forward with poor growing conditions.

At other times the growth factors are falsely tricked into thinking growing conditions are right, like when the fruit is warm and the seed is moist. This is why the vivipary process is most commonly seen in corn, tomatoes, peppers, pears, and citrus fruits.

If you see this happen in your produce, don’t worry. It doesn’t cause your food to spoil. Simply remove the sprout and plant it if you want. With access to nutrients in the soil your sprout should gain strength as it further develops.

As for the fruit you harvested the seedling from, depending on how long the fruit has been in that state it may start to have a bitter taste to it. You see, as the seed started to germinate it was taking nutrients from the parent fruit which are essential to its quality.

How To Prevent Vivipary

Even though it is not super common, you can take steps to avoid vivipary. The best way is to harvest your crops at the peak of freshness. Because you want to keep the seeds from recognizing they are in a moist and warm environment, don’t let your harvest sit in the field for too long.

While fruit still warm from the sun is delicious, it can also lead to that natural signal for germination. Bringing your harvest inside will help the fruit to cool, keeping the seed dormant.

If you are planning on saving your seed for the next season you won’t really be able to tell if this process is happening until you start harvesting your seed. I wouldn’t worry much about it anyways because it isn’t a persistent problem among growers.

However if you want to take some extra precautions, do some research on the varieties you are wanting to plant. Specifically look for problems with premature germination within the fruit. As seed growers have gained experience over the years, varieties with this common problem have had notes made regarding alternative options that are less prone to pregermination.

Ashleigh Smith's photo

I'm Ashleigh Smith, a native to Northern Utah. I first gained a love of gardening with my grandmother as I helped her each summer. I decided to make a career of it and have recently graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Horticulture from Brigham Young University - Idaho. My studies have focused on plant production while I also have experience in Nursery & Garden Center Operations.



Hi! I appreciate the Seed Viability article as everything is getting more expensive and I rarely plant an entire seed packet. can one plant the sprouted seeds?