I bought some sweet cherries in season last summer and decided to see if I could germinate some for planting. I "de-nutted" maybe 20+ of them and placed them in damp paper towels in the refrigerator for several months. They were all healthy looking seed kernels (out of the stone). I decided to plant some in the house in early January for an early start. Several of them were putting out roots.

I planted the four largest ones first - one died, three grew up, but one of those was "albino" - so I pulled it out. A couple of weeks later I planted six more that had roots, and these came up much more slowly. Four of them are slow growing and green. One more of these was "albino" (also??), and the other is still there, but not poking out of the soil yet - maybe dead. All of the remaining seeds were not sprouting roots at all, so I threw them away.

So, I got roughly a sorry 50% germination rate and only 25% survival rate. I then wondered if they might have been irradiated causing genetic defects, and if the surviving plants might also have other genetic changes that are not yet evident. I can't find any info. online about cherry irradiation in the US. Does anyone know if cherries are routinely (commonly) irradiated for market?

  • You don't mention where you put the seedlings. Was it indoors? If it was indoors, I suspect they were starved for sunshine. You also don't mention what you used for soil. Was it commercial potting soil or soil from the yard. Many people growing plants from seed grow in sterilized potting soil of some sort. And, depending on what country you inhabit there may or may not be laws regarding labeling of irradiated food. Both the EU and United States have laws requiring a prominent label identifying food as irradiated.
    – Tim Nevins
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 19:19
  • Yes, but does anyone know about cherry irradiation in the US? I live in the northeastern US and I know how to grow seedlings indoors (my citrus seedlings are doing great). It's February in New York state...and snowing now. No pun intended.
    – user22542
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 19:26

2 Answers 2


Germination rate: cherry (and a lot of fruit) are harvested earlier than full ripe fruits (ripe from tree point of view). Cold storage and CO2 could also affect germination. Possibly seeds need time to be ready (not just cold).

About defect: making sex with itself causes genetic diseases. Cultivated trees creates much more flowers than wild trees, they are selected to have many cherries (so less resistance to self-pollination). But also nearby cherry trees are probably of the same clone (so they share same DNA). So you have much more genetic defect than wild trees. But nobody care, we have selections and we clone the good varieties.

  • Thanks for the thoughts as alternative suggestions. I believe cherries are harvested near maturity or they will not taste right (sweet). Cherries germinated after four months of vernalization should be ready, and all air has CO2. And, self pollination does not cause genetic diseases, it only increases potential for recessive genes (maybe negative) to be expressed. Might have caused the "albino" affect I suppose, but I have never seen this with tomatoes for the sake of argument.
    – user22542
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 16:16
  • Actually the only question I am asking is about cherries being routinely (or commonly) irradiated for market in the US. I don't think these cherries were imported or anything.
    – user22542
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 16:48

There's no sure way of knowing if the cherry fruits you bought were irradiated - if they were not organically grown, they would have had pesticide used on them and possibly, from some suppliers. irradiation too.

The thing I want to point out is that cherries do not come true from their own seed - you will get a cherry tree, but the fruits maybe unpleasant to eat, bitter or wonderful, there's no way of knowing. This might not matter to you if you have plenty of space outdoors to plant lots of your seedlings and wait some years to see what you've got in terms of viable fruit as a project though. Some guidance on growing various fruits (including cherries) from seed here https://extension.psu.edu/hobbiest-gardening-growing-fruit-tree-plants-from-seed

  • Thanks and noted. Cherries from seed usually produce fairly similar fruit. Not really worried about the pesticides. I was hoping someone here might know about irradiation being used to delay spoilage of the fruit. My evidence does suggest genetic damage or loss of viability. There's not much information about this topic out there is there? I did read that irradiation has been approved by the FDA though.
    – user22542
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 22:13
  • There is information in regard to irradiated seeds, but its difficult to find information on what happens to the seed inside an irradiated fruit. In some species, seeds which have been irradiated have a lower germination and survival rate, but its dose dependent to some extent. Its probably safe to assume irradiated fruit will have seeds which have a greater failure rate.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 22:36
  • It is extremely easy to tell if your cherries were irradiated. If the are, there will be a prominent label stating so. Unless you buy your cherries out of the trunk of a car somewhere.
    – Tim Nevins
    Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 13:34

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