Spring Conifer Seed Collection

Discussion in 'Plant Propagation' started by bygeorge, Apr 2, 2009.

  1. bygeorge

    bygeorge Member

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    I am doing a little experiment and wonder if anyone out there has had any results with it. Given that Spruce seeds need a stratification process (and I forgot to collect seeds this fall) I have been collecting the seeds from cones that have fallen and spent the winter below the tree. I am operating on the assumption that mother nature has naturally stratified them over the winter and early spring. Is this a correct assumption?
    I am also conducting this experiment with Acer Palmatum's and am having good success, but after a week in most sphagnum moss nothing is happening with the Spruce seeds.
    Does this approach make sense or where did it go wrong? Thanks
     
  2. Michael F

    Michael F Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Yes, any seeds in them will be naturally stratified. But it's likely that there won't be many viable seeds in them, as the viable seeds usually drop out of the cone long before the cone falls. The exception is any squirrel-cut cones that dropped before they opened naturally.
     
  3. bygeorge

    bygeorge Member

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    Thanks Michael. I'll keep my fingers crossed that some of the Spruce seeds I sowed are viable. Most of them floated atop the water for the 24 hours I soaked them. I don't know if the float test is sufficient for Spruce. I hope it's not. The cones found were definitely squirrel cut as they did not open. Thanks again for your input.
     
  4. Maurice

    Maurice Member

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    Late last summer I sowed 2 small containers with "seeds" from Norway Spruce and Black Spruce. They were both sown with cones I'd found on the ground at the base of the tree. I actually could not find any identifiable seed within the cones, so I just crumpled up the cones and sowed the "debris" in hopes that there might be some seed within. Within a month or so, several spruce seedlings had germinated, though it was Autumn by then. I potted on of them up and moved it inside onto my windowsill, in November. It is still there, though it hasn't grown any since. The others spent the winter outside in the original containers beneath the snow. The snow has now melted, there's no sign of them, apparently they didn't survive the winter. I will keep my eye on the containers throughout the Spring and Summer to see if any more seedlings germinate. Unfortunately, the marker that I used to mark the containers as 'Norway' or 'Black' spruce wasn't waterproof, so I no longer know which is which. Even the seedling on my windowsill I'm not sure of.

    I've heard that spruce cones come in male & female. How can they be told apart ? I'd also appreciate some help with recognizing the seed. Obviously there was some viable seed in the cones, as a few seedlings did result. How did I miss recognizing the seed ?
     
  5. bygeorge

    bygeorge Member

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    Thanks for the info. I'll keep on hoping that some of the seeds come up. I don't know how to identify the males from the females. I used a couple of strategies in gleaning the seeds from the cones I found this spring:
    First I simply held the cone by its base and pounded the tip on a hard surface. In my case I used a small cardboard box atop my desk. Some of the seeds came out that way. They have a little paper wing attached to the actual seed and that's how I found them.
    Second I would essentially dissect the cone and with a small screwdriver and a pair of pliers I would remove scale by scale to see if any seeds were present. The seeds are very close to the center of the cone, but I have found you can see the outline of where the wing of the seed was against the inner part of the cones scales some of the time.

    Once found I soaked them for 48 hrs and sowed them in a 3'x1.5' hoop house I constructed out of a rubbermaid floor storage container, wire hangers, plastic drop cloth, and a grow light.

    They have great moisture and humidity, but so far nothing has sprouted. I'll keep my fingers crossed thanks to your post.
     
  6. Michael F

    Michael F Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Norway Spruce needles are nearly twice as long as Black Spruce needles; also Norway Spruce needles are mid-green, whereas Black Spruce needles are glaucous blue-green.

    The male (pollen) cones are small and soft, produced in spring and wither away in early summer as soon as the pollen is shed. The female (seed) cones are what you recognise as spruce cones.

    Male: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Picea_abies_male.jpg (magnified x10!)
    Female: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PICT0062.JPG

    Spruce seeds: dark brown/black with a papery pale brown wing http://www.pinetum.org/jh/PCneoveitchii0986.jpg (magnified x3)
     
  7. Millet

    Millet Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    It is tricky to know when the seeds are ripe and ready to gather. I have found that watching the squirrels is the most reliable way, since they always seem to know exactly. If you want seeds, gather the cones while they are fat and ripe but still tight, slightly green, and covered with pitch. Prompt drying is important, or the cones will rot. A sunny greenhouse, and airy warm shed, or outdoors in the open sun are good places to dry cones. Spread them out one layer deep, and place them so they will not crowd each other, on a wire screen that is elevated a few inches to allow the air to circulate beneath them. Don't let rain fall on them, or allow heavy dews to dampen them, because any excess moisture will cause them to rot. As the cones dry they pop open, and you can shake out the seeds. Each seed has a wing on it which enables the seed to float in the air for a long distance when it is released from a tall tree. Evergreen seeds ALWAYS sprout best if planted in the fall, as soon as the seeds are separated from the cones. They germinate as soon as the soil warms in the spring. Although the storage life of different varieties varies, most will remain viable for two to four years under GOOD storage conditions. Firs are an exception and do not germinate well after the seeds are a year or two old. - Millet (1,385-)
     
  8. Maurice

    Maurice Member

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    Just an update:
    The original little Black Spruce seedling that germinated last Fall (2008) and spent the winter indoors on my windowsill is now outside, in a little styrofoam container (actually a Dunkin Donuts cup), and has begun actively growing again (It didn't grow at all while it was indoors, it remained less than an inch in height). None of the seedlings that germinated last Fall that I left outside in containers survived over the winter. I believe that they were just too small, they were less than an inch in height. However, a new crop, about a dozen, have germinated this Spring and are now actively growing. Perhaps these will be old enough to survive the coming winter. Some of them are already larger than the one that spent the winter indoors on my windowsill.
     
  9. Maurice

    Maurice Member

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    Another update:

    Several black spruce seedlings germinated last Spring (2009) from the seed (actually crumpled up cones) that I'd sown into small styrofoam containers in summer 2008. About half a dozen of them survived the winter, still in the styrofoam containers, and have now just begun actively growing again. They're about 1 inch high.
     

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