Collecting Seeds Again!

As a propagator I often try different approaches to germinating seeds of certain species. Sometimes I get such a definitely positive response to one pre-treatment method, that it becomes the one I’ll always use.

Like soaking Toyon seeds for just one hour before sowing; this treatment results in vigorous germination. I won’t bother with a hot coffee soak of these seeds again. We potted up nearly five dozen healthy seedlings in May. We pot native shrub seedlings into tube-style pots which are designed with internal ridges running the length of the tube; this encourages roots to grow long and fairly straight, and helps to prevent roots from circling and eventually strangling themselves. The seedlings stay under shade for several months, and as they get potted up to larger style tubes, and eventually to tree-pots, they also get more and more exposure to direct sunlight.

Summer is a time for starting perennials, and some shrubs from seed. Most often I’m working with seeds that were collected last year; and at the same time I’m do a lot of seed collecting. I actually started collecting some seed in late spring; early-blooming wildflowers like Phacelias ‘go to seed’ by late April when the days get warmer, as does Miner’s Lettuce. I’ve got stands of different Clarkia species to collect from, and I’ll be checking the seed development of the native Salvias.

I’m always amazed at the abundance of seeds that most plants produce. It makes me think about all the different functions that seeds serve. First they are food; for all sorts of insects and other invertebrates, food for birds and rodents and other mammals. Seeds also ensure the survival and genetic diversity of a plant species, and some portion of seeds produced each year may lie dormant, hidden or camouflaged for many years as insurance against bad years for a particular species. I make sure to leave plenty of seeds for all the creatures, and collect in such a way that anyone following behind me would never notice a difference.

When I’m collecting seed, I keep this little mantra in mind: If you see more than ten fruits on a plant; take only one in ten. If you see nine: take none.