The key to saving flower seeds is knowing where to find the seeds! Some seeds are obvious, like those on holly hocks or marigold. They flaunt themselves at the end of old flower heads, only to later be strewn all over the ground surface. You could harvest these seeds simply by sweeping them off of paths or finding piles on the dirt. Other flower seeds, however, seem to be tiny jewels secreted away in hidden rooms. Cape Daisy seeds are like this.
In spite of that, once you know where they are, they can be harvested in abundance. Since they are an annual that blooms from early summer through fall in southwest Idaho, you can go out more than once to find seed. It will help if you know at what stage the flower will have dry, ripe seed that is still on the flower head and not popped into the surrounding area. These seeds are similar to a sprinkling of black pepper, so finding them after that point will be next to impossible.
My Cape Daisy plants, which I grew from seed this spring, have had a steady profusion of blooms. Once past the initial spring flush, I can go out and find flowers in all stages present at one time. This is helpful because it lets me examine them and get more familiar with the ones that have ripe seeds. It was educational to cut various expired flower heads and discover which ones I wanted. (click on any photo to enlarge)
In front of the middle flower head, you can see what looks like a separate flower head. It is, in fact, the top of the flower behind it, the part with the formerly long white petals. The petals have dried to a tan color. They surround a very dark patch, but this is not the seeds! This is actually another set of flowers that have also dried. The whole flower cap was resting on top of the bed of seeds, hiding them, if you will. When I laid the flower head down on the paper, the dried flower cap took a small jump to detach itself from the flower head. Immediately little seeds began to pop out from the area it had been cover. It was good that I had it on the paper.
There were still some seeds on the older flower heads, that were already missing their flower cap, but not as many and not easy to see either. The middle looked almost white, but a few seeds were tucked around the edges, apparently held in place by the now almost completely brown sepals (the once-green “leaves” that held the flower before it bloomed).
I learned that all of this is because Cape Daisies are what is categorized as a composite flower. That is, the center is not the simple flower center that most of us have learned about. Instead, it is another set of flowers called disk florets. Sunflowers also fall into this group, but the seeds end up being exposed more easily. Many flowers that we commonly see are actually composite flowers, such as zinnias and dahlias. So, I guess, daisies are not the “simple” flowers that I thought they were!
I collected seeds from a couple of my more vigorous looking plants. I lost count of exactly how many flower heads actually gave me seed, but I think it was around 4-5. I have gone out to collect seed on 2 different days now and may collect another time or two because my first seed germination test revealed a somewhat low germination rate. This is not unusual for tiny seed flowers, plus I am not going to any extra lengths to sort them. There was also a fair amount of debris from the disk florets that got left on the moistened paper towel, so it may look like a lower rate than it is. Nonetheless, I would rather have too many than too few.
So the plan is to have enough seed next year to plant a stunning bed or two of Cape Daisies. I have always been sad when my perennial Shasta Daisies were done blooming after a lousy 3 weeks (even though this is normal for a perennial). Sure, I don’t have to replant the Shasta Daisies every year, but I think it will be so nice to have Cape Daisies in bunches around the yard all summer long.