|Plant Propagation, Seeds Germination|
Now here's something from the "Science is the ever self-correct mechanism ever evolving ever improving animal" Department, that I would have thought was figured out and completely understood a long time ago when it comes to seed germination. So is science really self correcting ????? emmmm, well sort of ! One of the claims by those who have blind faith in Science is that the advantage of scientific investigation is that if someone claims to have say made a discovery of how to create cold-fussion energy, then that claim can be proven to be false or unwarranted by further research and scientific testing. This rosy picture of this science as an infallible enterprise suggests that scientific errors will be recognized and corrected, with false claims falling by the wayside during science’s inexorable march forward. There's one problem with this worshipful affirmation. The problem is that things never really work that way because life is far more complicated as a result of human imperfection and error. Like any other human endeavor, scientists & scientific inquiry can become stained or tainted by the same imperfect qualities of stupidity, bias, negilgence, lying and deceit that plague all other human beings. Still, one would hope that certain progress in some simple areas would have changed by now even after many decades.
This brings me to what is the best Nature-Based techniques for seed germination ? By nature based, I mean how does it work best in nature ? Surely many of the professional Plant Nurseries know what good propagation techniques are all about. Why they are in the business of caring about good result$, but then maybe some don't know after all. Maybe it's a numbers game for them too and they may play by the percentages game as well. Here's what I'm talking about.
A few days ago I visited the San Diego Safari Park's website. I guess they've changed their name from San Diego Wild Animal Park, - whatever. I didn't realize it at the time, but their website has a blog section where articles from various departments within the Zoo are published with public comments allowed at the bottom.
|Planting Tecate Cypress Seeds in pots|
There was an article written by a Lauren Anderson who works for the Applied Plant Ecology Division at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research has partnered with the Nature Conservancy, the Bureau of Land Management, and the California Department of Fish and Game to preserve this unique species of Tecate Cypress. It basically it was a well written article educating the public about an important matter involving their local ecology. After all, these recent phenomena of Mega-Fires have threatened it with extinction in most of it's range. But in the comments section, there was a question posed by a commentor named,
Lee from Vancouver:
"An interesting blog Lauren. How do you get the cones you collected to open. I gather you used heat, but how is this done without burning the cones?"
Now the answer to this question didn't come from Lauren, but from I imagine her Supervisor named
Laurie Lippitt, Sr. Research Technician:
"Lee – Greetings. The Reforestation Center first soaked the cones in 92°C water for 24 hours. The cones were then surface-dried and placed into a drying chamber at 49°C for 4 hours. When the cones did not start to open , they used 52°C for about 8 hours and finally another day at 54°C. The cones that had partially opened received a final drying period at 52°C while the cones that had not opened went through another round of hot water soaking followed by drying at 52°C. So, you can see that the process was not just a single step. Once the cones were opened, they were tumbled to extract the seed and upgraded in an air separator to remove some empty seed. The finished seedlot had 42% germination, which is rather good for cypress seed."
The website is AllExperts.com and the particular page here is with the subject of Conifers. The Profile for this particular Expert's background is for a Jim Hyland:
Expertise Profile:Registered Forester in the Southern US with 30 years experiance in managing pines. Expert in pine forest health from management to control of pests to ID of species.
Here is the question he published followed by his expertise answer:
|Italian Cypress Seeds & Cone|
I have a cone collected from an Italian Cypress tree, not from the ground. The cone dried and opened up with seeds falling out of it. I’m not sure how long the cone had been growing and if it was time to harvest, but I collected it in spring. Could this seeds be germinated successfully? What is the best way to germinate them?
After a month in the frig plant them in potting soil just barely under the soil. Seed - sow late winter in a cold frame and only just cover the seed. The seed usually germinates in 1 - 2 months at 20°c. The seedlings are very subject to damping off so should be watered with care and kept well-ventilated. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.
Now this is what amazes me. These numbers predicted to germinate are so low. Why ? If I can get almost 100% (okay 99.5% - .05 for error) then why can't they ? Or maybe it's technique from the old conventional school thinking of propagation method to potting. My problem here is once again I am a critical skeptic, but I was trained that way by one of my former instructors. I like science, but I'm also a science realist. Alot of Science has also helped destroy much of our planet because many & most of their technologies are based on making fast profit$ and the bosses of these researchers who work for most of these big corporations want results NOW, not when it's safe to be revealed. So as always, in my mind I'm thinking again, there must be a better way.
Well, the first thing I wondered about when I was in my late teens, 'How does this work in nature?' When I went out in nature, what I most often saw after a fire swept through an area were the high numbers of seedling (100%?) on the ground, not the low (45%). But WHY ?? As I've written about previously when I went with my brother to a friends house for a Bar-B-Q on North Peak in the Cuyamaca Mountains just exactly one year after that horrible Cedar Fire in 2003, the ground was covered with millions upon millions of Incense Cedar Seedlings which were so thick and heavy at 3-4 inches high, I at first thought they were annual grasses growing up first before the other plants. Closer inspection proved otherwise.
Okay so back to the early 1980s. I made a special point of exploring regions where Tecate Cypress could be located. In fact I've always wanted to establish an example of a Tecate Cypress Forest woodland setting in an urban landscape as I attempted to do at my mother's home which I wrote about on my "Earth's Internet" blog. The title of the article was about the correct Soil and I used the Tecate Cypress as my example of what not to do. Trust me, Tecate Cypress needs specific structural requirements withing the soil to succeed.
"Is the Plant in the Right Soil ?"
One of the first things I meditated on was the way the seeds were dispersed. It was also without exception by a fast moving fire which was necessary to melt the resins which glued the cone compartments together. These seeds and cones can stay viable for decades on end. There were a number of other things that came to mind.
The fire sterilizes the soils for the most part and that helps take care of any possible pathogen problems later on and also a common problem in nurseries, "Damping off " where the plant's root collar is attacked, rots and the tiny week/s old seedling falls over dead. So I reasoned fire will also take care of that pathogen issue, so great, some form of a fire component is necessary. The other issue was weather and climate. What was/is it and how do I replicate it. At 3500' to 4500' elevation it is windy and bitterly cold and very wet in wintertime when these seeds would have been first influenced. So both wet and cold are a must at the same time. Now admittedly, the AllExperts guy Jim Hyland, did touch on some of these points, but he didn't fully go all the way or far enough. I believe because he was in a hurry for results & that's what the client asking the question wanted to hear. He mentioned one month, and no doubt thereafter out planted into seeding trays.
There is one other important thing of note here about seeds reaction to winter dormancy. They actually are not all that dormant. They are actually slowly working under the ground, though you may not see them doing this. I once did some experiments with both Coulter and Torrey Pine seeds by actually outplanting them directly into the ground in November with no extra help from me and I had locations marked off where they were located to later check on their progress. By late January most of these seedlings were pushing up through the snow at my property in Anza Ca and any further cold spells from then on seemed as water off a duck's back to them. They were un-effected. Just a side point understanding, but interesting to know. Something is always going on all that time, though slowly.
Here's how it has always worked for me and anyone reading can replicate these results with any cypress seed. First thing I did was create a fire componant scenario. I pulled out a sheet of Aluminum Tin Foil and laid this sheet on a Weber Bar-B-Q Grill. Underneath this grill I have already placed very small dry twigs and dried pine needles. I want a hot fast burning but not too long of a fire. The foil has holes in it to allow some fire & smoke in through the slits but not to much. I don't want the cones burnt up and cooked along with the seeds. Once 30-50 cones are piled in there on top of the tin foil, I light the fire which burns quickly hot and fast. Sure enough all of the cones popped open as a result of the heat melting processes. The smoke and heat under the slightly closed lid also destroy any pathogens that may have been on the outside cone shells as well. Now the seeds easily fall out onto a table as I work each cone clean. I have no need of a professional seed tumbler as a lot of that is for science class and is an unnecessary expense. No mess at all.
Now how to work the weather componant. What I already knew about that areas climate is that it is cold and wet for at least 4-5 months up in the mountains at high elevations. It's not like down below along the coast. I find a small to medium sized clear glass jar and put all of the seeds in it. I next boil some water and pour this over the seeds and allow them to soak overnight. I do this with all seeds, presoak even if vegetable garden seeds. Next & this is import, unlike the mention of leeting the seeds dry out - NEVER LET THEM DRY OUT!!!
They suggested a wet paper towel holding the seeds in plastic ziplock, but the jar works better for me. What I do the very next day is drain off the excess water in that same jar and close the lid tight, swish the seeds around inside the jar to where they are evenly dispersed around the inside coating glass walls where they easily stick, then place this jar of wet seeds on the bottom shelf of a Fridge and wait approximately 3 months almost exactly. I say three months because that is the length of time it takes for the seed to swell enough to where all the seeds are baring that small white germ where the taproot is about to pop through.
At this point it's time to plant in seed germination flats, but you first better have your potting media ready. This is another one those interesting life changing experiences of something you had as a student in school. I wanted something safer in potting preparation than the conventional chemical program offered in the textbooks. One Ag instructor of mine, Mr Rutherford challenged me to figure it out logically if i disagreed with the book. I did.
Nursery Potting Soil Preparation
|"Damping Off" - rot at the root collar in a |
Nursery Container is very common in the industry
Next I space each seed about one inch apart in all directions in the flats. All I need is for them to pop up and compete upwards for space and at about three or four inches I transpalnted into 1 gallon containers with the same mix. I seriously have seen one seed germinate for every hole I've evenly spaced and planted (100% rate). I didn't like the manner in which they had the 40% rate at the SD Zoo. Here is what their planting instruction calls for taken from their own page. Notice in the photo how all of their spaced holes with the already provided for containerized tubing has 4-6 seeds in each space ? They are expecting failure and will thin them if more than one comes up. In my method I never expect or plan for any failure.
Eventually your trees in pots will look like this photo of Vietnamese Golden Cypress seedlings to the right. At this point you should let them develope just a bit further, then plant them in those one gallon containers. I water and feed them with a mixture of seaweed extract and they'll also feed on whatever was in the potting soil. There is enough there to get them going until the outplanting with mycorrhizal inoculum applications later, which you HAVE TO DO people.
At that point they will quickly get a foot high and I'd plant them then. They grow extremely fast so make sure you have a tough rocky soil. And as always, please purchase a great mycorrhizal inoculum and mix the powder into the planting holes so that colonization is quick and efficient. Don't think you can get away without using one. If you still don't understand the Fungi thing, then quickly find out and save your money on the science-based chemical junk. You don't need it and you can spend your hard earned money elsewhere. Give them a huge healthy headstart. There is no real extra work that goes into mixing a half teaspoon of mycorrhizal inoculant mix or less in the hole.
|Forest Service helps tecate cypress after fire|
I'm not really wanting to be overly critical of the Zoo Employees and All-Expert Dude, but clearly there are better nature-based applications which should be implimented over the conventional old school science-based failures. These above methods can be tried and experimented on with most seeds. Even if climatic conditions or ecological environments are different in say Africa or India from there in southern California and the plants are of radically different species. Then by all means watch, study and observe how nature really works where you live and accomplishes these tasks. Perhaps you are dealing with Umbrella Acacia (Acacia tortilis) , but may you know for a fact that the Elephants eat the bean pods and they run through this animals digestive tract with it's tough acids to break down the hard sheeled seed coats and then procede to germinate in a Elephant's Poop Pile. Then feed pods to your cattle or some other herbivore. Find ways to adapt and improvise.
There are still Errors to be found in many many science text books these days which have not been changed for years. Some of the same failed, though okay at the time methods used back then should have been changed today with newer understanding but they haven't. So what should a student do ? Be a thinker. Schools seem nowadays to only encourage unquestioning textbook studiers and excellent test takers basing answers on those same textbooks, but rarely encourage the ongoing growing thinking processes that utilize logical simple to understand practical applications found in nature. Be creative based on what you observe out there.
Real science is NOT the Internet and a Lab, it's field observation as well and that more than anything else improves great learning ability that has been lost. I'm sorry that many of you students will not be able to observe a natural world in it's fully functional state as it was in the past, but the Industrial Science Corporations that the majority of mankind have put their faith in at the encouragent of your politicians have destroyed a good portion of what once existed out there in Nature. Hopefully with helpful suggestions of others in the Nursery business who have gone through the hard knocks will be able to provide further helpful assistance to you.
Vermiculite & Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide
Googled Hydrogen Peroxide and Plant Growth
Liquid Smoke and Seed Germination
Stimulation of Empress Tree Seed Germination by Liquid Smoke