Seeds to Seedlings

At Club Gaïac, we’ve been busy preparing seedlings for our launch at the 2015 Endemic Animal Festival. As we do so, we’re learning a thing or two about getting seedlings started. (You can also take a look at our previous post, Experimenting with the Tree of Life to see how we learned some of these things.)

Collecting Seeds

You can typically find seeds beneath any tree that is producing seeds. So far, we’ve found that most seeds will germinate, whether obviously fresh and covered in their bright red coating or seemingly old and weathered. Seeds that have obviously been eaten or crushed are the only ones I wouldn’t bother to use.

All of these seeds, new and old, will potentially be viable.
All of these seeds, new and old, will potentially be viable.

Preparing Seeds

If any seeds are still attached to the orange fruit, take them out. I have found that soaking seeds for a day or so in water will make it easy to remove any fleshy coating, and this process may also help the seeds absorb water to promote germination.

Leaving seeds in water for a day will make it easier to remove the red sarcotesta.
Leaving seeds in water for a day will make it easier to remove the red sarcotesta.

In a small glass jar with water, the seed coating will ferment, giving off a funky odor, and shaking the jar will help remove the coating from the seeds. You can rinse with water until it is all gone.

The fleshy seed coating is easily shaken off after an overnight soak.
The fleshy seed coating is easily shaken off after an overnight soak.

The cleaned seeds will be free of fleshy material that is prone to molding.

Cleaned seeds.
Cleaned seeds.

In order to promote germination, use a pocketknife or other implement (carefully!!!) to expose the radicle, which is the beginning of the root. It is at the rounder end of the seed.

Seed with radicle exposed.
Seed with radicle exposed.

Germination

Early on, we did some germination in damp paper towels, which did promote germination, but also resulted in mold and rotting of the radicle. Here are examples of a few problems we had.

Scraping the entire seed coating off was unnecessary, tedious and promoted molding. Removing just the coating over the radicle seems much more effective.
Scraping the entire seed coating off was unnecessary, tedious and promoted molding. Removing just the coating over the radicle seems much more effective.
Too much moisture causes the root to rot. The root can become discolored.
Too much moisture causes the root to rot. The root can become discolored.
A rotting root can also turn into mush. This is another sign that the environment is too moist.
A rotting root can also turn into mush. This is another sign that the environment is too moist.
A healthy root is solid, light-colored and grows quickly.
A healthy root is solid, light-colored and grows quickly.

Seedling Care

Currently we have a number of trays of sprouted seedlings in moist vermiculite. Our trays have ample drainage, so excess water is not retained. We are keeping the vermiculite moist so the seedlings don’t dry out. Next Saturday we will be transplanting these seeds into individual starter pots containing different soil mixtures, so we will have an update soon on how this part of the process is working! We also have a handful of wild-germinated seedlings transplanted from beneath trees that are currently potted in different soils to see how they do and what percentage survive the transplantation.

Wild-born seedlings in water before being transplanted into individual pots.
Wild-born seedlings in water before being transplanted into individual pots.

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