Skip to main content

High Altitude Rhubarb--Organic Farm & Nursery

Pick-Your-Own, 100% Organic Rhubarb Since 2008
Pick Your Own With Us
Varieties of Rhubarb
Growing Rhubarb
History of Rhubarb
Media Coverage
Contact Us
About Rhubarb Seeds...
 On large scale or where transportation is a problem, such as across most international borders, plants are propagated by either seeds or tissue culture (i.e. cloned).  Rhubarb easily hybridizes through normal sexual reproduction.  Indeed, it is tetraploidy, meaning the cells have more groups of genes than just one from mom and one from dad, which results in more than  normal variation in the offspring of the same plants.  Additionally, sexual production (seeds) is influenced by regression toward the mean, a phenomenon wherein new generations tend to differ from their parents by moving toward the average in each characteristic rather than toward one extreme of the other.  For example, phenomenally large plants tend to produce seeds for smaller plants.  The first generation of our Victoria seeds produced about 1/3 true-to-type, large plants like their parents, and about 1/5 duds, small plants bent on producing too many seed stalks.  We are now experimenting with the second generation plants.

By second generation plants I mean we have harvested seeds from only the 1/3 true-to-type plants created from the first generation of seeds.  As of 2017 we do not yet have results for the second generation.  This technique is reputed to produce almost 100% true-to-type seedlings from the third generation of plants, which will take us several more years to produce.

We have a relatively unique way of harvesting rhubarb seeds.  Conventional wisdom says to harvest seeds either when 2/3 of them are mature of when they are all mature.  Either way, you forfeit 1/3 of the seeds.  If you wait until they have all matured then 1/3 will already have fallen to the ground or, if not protected, 100% will have been eaten by birds!  We wrap the immature seed head in a bag made of bridal veil material, see photo.  This methods allows us to wait until all seeds are mature and captures 100% of the viable seeds.  It is a bag sew shut with a pull-tie around the stalk.  (I apologize that newer images appear rotated clockwise.  Microsoft software...)
 On small scales rhubarb is best propagated via root stock.  The roots of a 2-3 year old plant form into a clump, each root looking something like a sweet potato.  The roots must be pulled or cut apart.  One 3 year old victoria plant will produce about 15 new plants from roots.  To improve success rates it is desirable to have a leave crown (beginning of a new petiole) on each newly separated root.  Therefore, this is also known as propagation via crowns.  
For decorative varieties the desirable qualities include crinkled leaves, large leaves, and early or large flower heads.  At High Altitude Rhubarb we have numerous varieties of rhubarb and run tests with seeds produced by cross-breeding the varieties.  We have a number of goals in mind.  These include: creation of an F1 hybrid with the robustness, size, quality, health and yield of the large, green varieties and the color of the pure red varieties;  creation of a hybrid that is more heat-tolerant;  creation of a hybrid that breeds true through seeds beyond F1.  Unfortunately, we have very limited time to devote to this activity.  We can use help.  If you would like to participate in our studies please contact us.  We'd love to hear from you.