Photo by Melody

Space Violets

By Kelli Kallenborn (KelliFebruary 19, 2014

In 1984, African violet seeds were sent into space to test the effects of radiation and zero gravity on them as part of the 'Seeds in Space' experiment. It was intended that they remain in space for 11 months. Due to schedule delays, they ended up in space for almost 6 years. The seeds were germinated and some showed favorable mutations. The result was Optimara's EverFloris line of African violets.

Gardening picture

In 1984, 25,000 Optimara African violet seeds were launched aboard the space shuttle Challenger.  They were on the Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) satellite.  The LDEF held 57 experiments and was one of the largest Shuttle-launched payloads ever.  The purpose of the experiments was to determine the effect of space radiation on various substances.  The experiments came from more than 200 investigators and originated from private companies, universities, NASA, the Department of Defense, and foreign countries.  A total of 2 million seeds from 120 different varieties of plants, including tomatoes, were launched on the LDEF.  Also tested on the LDEF were space construction materials. 

The LDEF was supposed to remain in orbit for 11 months.  The schedule slipped and the LDEF was to be retrieved in 1986.  Then came the Challenger disaster, and retrieval was set back indefinitely.  The LDEF was finally retrieved by the space shuttle Columbia in 1990.  The satellite had been in space for 69 months.  


Back on earth, the seeds were germinated.  They had an 80% germination rate.  Twenty percent of the seeds produced viable, mature plants.  Of these less than 50 were deemed suitable for cross breeding with other varieties.


The Space Violets showed several mutations.  One was 'multiflorescence', which is the ability to bloom constantly and to have 20 or more flowers in bloom at once.  EverFloris Space Violet plants also are up to 50% larger than Standard African violets.  The foliage is ruffled and durable.   


EverFloris violets take the same care as other African violets.  Tips on growing African violets can be found in Jill M. Nicolaus' article 'African Violets 101:  Getting Started with Your New Plant'.


Plants from other planets?  No, Space Violets ultimately have an earthly origin, but their seeds spent years in space which resulted in mutations and unique varieties.  You might never be an astronaut, but you can own a descendant of a space traveler.  

Photos and thumbnail illustration are property of and courtesy of Optimara.  

  About Kelli Kallenborn  
Kelli KallenbornKelli has lived in California for 25 years and really enjoys the climate and all of the varied natural ecosystems. You can also follow Kelli on Google.

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