summary of my own experiments in propagation of native species



Only finished experiments are reported -- and this hasn’t been updated since 2015.

35W means seeds were placed in paper towel, wetted (squeeze water out so its like nice, damp soil, or a damp sponge). That’s placed in a plastic baggie (the ones with thin walls, use the cheapest you can find, they are the best for this). This is placed in the fridge.

70W means 70˚F, wet, similar to 35W.  I used a thermometer controlled heat source to maintain the temp.

Gaultheria shallon

Fruit picked in November, crushed in water and seed separated.  Seed is very tiny and there are 50-100 seed per fruit. I used a strainer to separate the seed from the chaff (about 1/16th inch holes).  The seed was washed several times, to remove any juice and residue. Then soaked in water for a week, changing the water twice a day, again to make sure any residue of the juice was removed.

The seed was mixed with sand to make it easier to sow and then sown ON TOP of fine seed starting mix that had been sterilized in a microwave (heat to 150˚F).  This was placed under florescent lights that were on a timer, 14hrs of light per day.  The flourescent lights were just “bright daylight” lights.  A clear plastic cover was placed over the see tray (the ones you can buy in a nursery). 

Germination in 7 days, seemed over 90%.

Camassia lechtlinii, C. cusikii

Seed purchased 10/4 at the WNPS sale, probably had been dry stored for a few months. Seed placed at 35W. Articles had said that the seeds needed 2-5 months in the fridge, so I didn’t check them until 55 days. at that time 100% of the cusikii had germinated (50 seeds total), and  155/165 of the lechtlinii had germinated. (remaining lechtlinii were put back in the fridge and after 5 days, 5 more germinated).

Seeds were sown in pots about 1/4” deep in potting soil and placed under florescent lights. After about a week, first shoots were appearing above the soil.

Camas only has one blade in its first year, something I didn’t know before I did this.

5/16/2012 - Because I started so early, by March they were starting to fade. I kept them going and kept them too wet (in the rain, outside). I lost quite a few, but eventually I got advice to let them dry out and they made bulbs! I’m going to let them dry a little more in the soil and then put them in the fridge and then see if they grow. I could get two years of growth in one year!

Picea sitchensis

Seed purchased mail order. placed at 70W. Germination started after 6 days and continued for 15 days. It might have gone on longer, but I had way more seeds germinate than i could use, so I stopped.

Don’t let the soil dry out. they can take quite a bit of water and drying will kill the growth point and that takes a long time to recover.

Lupinus rivularis

All beans have hard seed coats (food crop beans have micro fractures in their seed coat) and need to be scratched. I used 60 grit sandpaper, put some seeds between the paper and rubbed. (One paper on the table, grit up. seeds on top of that, then rub with the other piece of sandpaper). This was altogether an unsatisfying experience and I would love to hear another way to do it.

In any case, you don’t need to make much of a scratch. I used a microscope to check and it took very, very little rubbing, just a couple of passes with the sandpaper.

The seeds were soaked overnight, which let me verify that they were all taking up water, then put in the usual paper towel/plastic bag at 70W.  They germinated in 3 days, including the overnight soak.  1 of 11 seeds fell apart, probably over did it with the sandpaper, so be careful.

I’m looking for a better way to scratch small seeds, any ideas would be appreciated.

Aquilegia Formosa

They benefit from scarification. I rubbed them between pieces of sandpaper (lower paper very coarse, upper, moving paper finer) and soaked them for 12 hours.  The scarified seeds absorbed water, the non-scarified seeds did not (measured by weight). Unscarified seeds germinated to about 70%, scarified seed germinated to 90% and a few days sooner.

Giberellic Acid, reported by Deno to be necessary, had a deleterious effect, causing 100%  germination, but deformed germination -- the cots swole up and the root was stunted.  I have photos and a table of data if anyone is interested.

Acer circinatum

There may be other methods that work....

  1. 1)collected seed hanging on the tree and put in a peat moss bed outside. covered with leaves.  About 30% germination in late March.

  2. 2)Put seeds in wet towel, at 70˚F for 1 mo. then fridge for 3 mos.  They eventually start germinating cold.  Take them out to the warm box and some more will germinate.  back and forth, 1 week warm, 1 week cold seemed to work.  about 30% eventually germinated.  But they are way earlier and way ahead of the ones that were outside.  So, more trouble, same germination, but larger plants.

Dodecatheon hendersonii

Got some seeds from Dick Decker that were over a year old.  Put in fridge 3-7.  Internet said 3 mos cold. But they started germinating in fridge 4-17.  I took them out 4-20 and by 4-22 LOTS had germinated.  Put 72 into tray (used 3-4 germinating seeds per cell).

Juncus sp.

I tried 3 species of Juncus.  The seeds are extremely fine, almost as small as fern spore.  The seeds were dusted on top of fine soil. Then the tray was placed on a warm pad set to 75˚F and covered with a plastic cover. Florescent light was applied 14 hrs a day.  within a week all had germinated.