Growing Arbutus From Seed

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by Eric Odle, Mar 4, 2012.

  1. Eric Odle

    Eric Odle Member

    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Blaine, WA
    A little background info to start: I am a big fan of arbutus trees, and would like to live around them. We regularly visit the Gulf Islands and play around them, but the real challenge of course is finding them on the mainland in Northern Washington and Southern BC. Though I'm from Bellingham, my wife and children live in Burnaby, so really I'm working with Southern BC to stay close to her family in the Vancouver area.

    Unfortunately there aren't a lot of natural stands in the lower mainland, so I've been identifying possible habitats and planting arbutus berries in public spaces where I think they might grow. In all likelihood I think they will not succeed, but I'm hoping that if I plant enough some will survive. Here are some things I am taking into consideration:

    1) Unobstructed sunny location, especially on the north side of streets
    2) Well drained, elevated if possible
    3) Proximity to Douglas Fir, evidently they share mychorizal networks

    This last fall I harvested berries from various arbutus trees on the mainland and planted these. My question to the forum is how should these be planted to give them the best possible chance? Near the surface? In large bunches? Should I process the berries somehow first?

    Thanks for your suggestions,
    Eric
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 5, 2012
  2. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

    Messages:
    3,495
    Likes Received:
    206
    Location:
    Vancouver
    Establishing arbutus trees is certainly a challenge. I don't know if the trees will actually grow very well that far from the coast. Are there any growing in the neighborhood?

    I have a garden in Sechelt where they grow naturally. I collect seed each year. I get great germination, but have never had success getting any trees established. To my knowledge, only two trees have sprouted and grown on the property naturally since we purchased it 9 years ago. I think Stellar's jays eat many of the seeds. I find empty open berries beneath the trees. I collect berries each fall and clean the seeds. I put these in a moist sterile medium and keep them in the refrigerator over winter. I get lots of germination from these seeds in the spring, but I have never succeeded in transplanting any of the seedlings. This year I am going to try a different strategy, although I put away very few seeds last year. I am going to leave them in the fridge until spring is well under way and sow the stratified seed onto natural areas to see if I can get them to grow on their own.
     
  3. bjo

    bjo Active Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    271
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    algarve portugal
    With Arbutus unedo in Portugal, two important points in improving success with establishing seedlings are:

    1) to minimise root disturbance
    2) much better results with added mycorrhiza ( they are not demanding, but mycorrhizal generalists ...a specific species is not needed... an ordinary garden mix should work).

    boa sorte
    Brian
     
  4. Eric Odle

    Eric Odle Member

    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Blaine, WA
    No there are no arbutus trees in my immediate vicinity near Deer Lake, but it seems to me that south Burnaby with its steep south-facing slope might be a good location to find a few. I just haven't seem them yet.

    I think this next fall I'll gather as many berries as I can from what trees I can find in the area and properly prepare the seeds for germination (including 60 days in the fridge for stratification). I found some information from a UW site on how to do this:

    http://soilslab.cfr.washington.edu/madrone/book.html

    While they did transplant those trees successfully, I think I will do what Eric is planning to do and plant the stratified seeds directly in their intended locations at the beginning of spring. Hopefully planting a large number of seeds in a large number of possible locations with suitable habitat will produce a few successful trees.
     
  5. Tree Nut

    Tree Nut Active Member

    Messages:
    262
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    PNW
    Some instructions from Twining Vine Garden:

    "Soak seed 24 hours. Cold stratify in a resealable baggie with moist medium 60 days. Sow thinly in containers or flats. Growing medium should be well draining gritty medium. Use sharp sand as the sowing surface. Press seed into sand. Do not cover. Keep moist, shaded, and cool. Prick out seedlings (if growing in flats not growing in dedicated containers) at second true leaf stage in pots to minimize handling. Seat in their final growing position where their roots will not be disturbed."

    I would also obtain some soil from under a healthy arbutus and mix it in with the soil where you plan to plant the seedlings to inoculate the soil with beneficial fungi.
     
  6. vitog

    vitog Rising Contributor 10 Years

    Messages:
    1,594
    Likes Received:
    185
    Location:
    Burnaby, Canada
    Eric, you will be lucky to find Arbutus trees in south Burnaby, but there are thousands of them in West Vancouver above Horseshoe Bay. If you hike the Black Mtn Trail (AKA the west end of the Baden Powell Trail) from Horseshoe Bay, you will soon find many Arbutus trees right beside the trail. I've seen seedlings that have sprouted right at the edge of the trail.
     
  7. Eric Odle

    Eric Odle Member

    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Blaine, WA
    If I can find a successful arbutus in Burnaby, would it not be better to obtain seeds from this specimen?
     
  8. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

    Messages:
    10,352
    Likes Received:
    490
    Location:
    Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    I live in the south Burnaby area, and I've yet to see any on my walks.
     
  9. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

    Messages:
    3,495
    Likes Received:
    206
    Location:
    Vancouver
    Burnaby and Sechelt certainly have different conditions. I found a kangaroo paw plant that I planted summer before last still alive last weekend in Sechelt. Sounds like Burnaby may not be a suitable environment. Eric, if you do still try to get some established, you might want to collect seed from trees at the highest location above sea level that you can find them or as far from the coast as you can find.
     
  10. ArbutusRon

    ArbutusRon Member

    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Cortes Island BC Canada
    Each Arbutus tree is so unique. The wood inside varies depending on its soil and I am sure much more. So if you want to be successful with seeds, some soil from where you found the seed would be useful.

    Once you start your seedling always note its alignment north south and when you plant it keep it always in the same direction. Arbutus trees are highly sensitive to sunlight.

    Hope this helps a bit.

    ArbutusRon from

    http://www.arbutusarts.com/arbutus-tree.html
     
  11. Eric Odle

    Eric Odle Member

    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Blaine, WA
    I will be hunting for arbutus trees in South Burnaby this next week. The closest specimen I know of at this point is at Victoria and 33rd, about 3 miles to the west but not in what I would consider to be suitable habitat. I'll report back with my results.
     
  12. Lysichiton

    Lysichiton Active Member

    Messages:
    707
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Fraser Valley, BC.
    Attached is a photo of the only Arbutus I know of in Langley. It is a rather sorry thing & on a property that will soon be developed (in Willoughby). It's on a S slope & planted into a rock-pile I think.

    Pretty marginal for this species anywhere in the Lower Mainland & Fraser Valley in my experience unless you go to Tsawwasen, Crescent Beach & UBC.
     

    Attached Files:

  13. Eric Odle

    Eric Odle Member

    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Blaine, WA
    Sure enough, just west of Royal Oak on Patrick there is an arbutus tree. That was just a quick check on a couple of streets, I'll do a more thorough check soon and snap some photos. Perhaps that will go in a new thread.
     
  14. Eric Odle

    Eric Odle Member

    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Blaine, WA
    Funny how these trees pop up when you are looking for them. There's a big one near the tennis courts at McLean Park (Byrne Creek Park) in the south slope area. And I was quite surprised while riding my bike down Douglas just north of Sprott when I suddenly noticed two younger specimen growing from below street level. I'd driven that way many times but they are easy to miss by car.

    They really seem to love terraces, and I'm wondering if they also like shade early in their lives so long as they can grow into a sunny area.

    I still expect to find a few more around the south slope area. Come this fall, though, I'll have a few trees in my area from which to collect seeds for next spring.
     
  15. ArbutusRon

    ArbutusRon Member

    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Cortes Island BC Canada
    In my experience they love sun. In a clear-cut they are often the first new growths to sprout as long as it is a normal arbutus area. Sun sun sun!

    Ron from ArbutusArts.com
     
  16. Eric Odle

    Eric Odle Member

    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Blaine, WA
    That's why the Douglas location was such a surprise, two young but healthy arbutus growing below the street level on the west side of the lot. They can't have had much sun early in their lives. They had to grow to about 3 feet before they had a clear view of the southern and western horizon. How long does that take?
     
  17. ArbutusRon

    ArbutusRon Member

    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Cortes Island BC Canada
    They are amazing trees... they know if they can just get bigger the sun is awaiting them, even if they have to twist and turn to get there!
     
  18. Anna Kadlec

    Anna Kadlec Active Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    100
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    South Surrey, Canada
    Art's Nursery (192nd St and 88th Ave, Surrey) has some small healthy looking specimens for $16 right now (larger for $29). These might be worth a try if you only want a couple of trees and you don't want to wait forever for seeds that might not germinate. I bought one for myself last weekend :)
     
  19. Eric Odle

    Eric Odle Member

    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Blaine, WA

    I'd be curious to hear how it does over the coming months. Transplanting them seems to be a real challenge! I tried a few years back with no success, though I have learned quite a bit about arbutus trees since then.

    This next season it'll be a numbers game for me, lots of stratified seeds in various places with suitable habitat. It may take some time but fortunately I am very patient!
     
  20. Anna Kadlec

    Anna Kadlec Active Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    100
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    South Surrey, Canada
    I bought a small specimen and planted it in my garden and it took just fine. It didn't seem to grow at all for the first 2 years, but in it's 3rd and 4th year in my yard it grew several feet in height. It even survived the horrible winter of 2008. But then, in early summer 2009, it suddenly started to look unhealthy and it died rapidly, for no apparent reason. The transplanting wasn't a problem.
     
  21. MoDirt

    MoDirt Active Member

    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Vancouver, Canada
    Both Arbutus Ron and Tree Nut are correct when they suggest taking a small amount of soil from the base of a Native stand of Arbutus.

    Arbutus form 2 mycorrhizal symbiots, 1st with an Arbutoid mycorrhizae ( Arbutus specific )
    and the 2nd with an Ericoid mycorrhizae ( specific to Ericaceae )

    Both of these mycorrhizae as far as I know are not yet commercially available, it is this reason why innoculation with native stand soil and duff would be benificial when starting seed or transplanting from the nursury.

    I often see Arbutus guilded with Salal and Yerba Buena both of which are usefull food and medicinal plants and must both support and benefit from the Madrone looming overhead.
     
  22. Eric Odle

    Eric Odle Member

    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Blaine, WA
    I now have a bag of arbutus seeds stratifying in the refrigerator. In 60 days they will be ready to germinate, but is late January too early to plant them outside? I intend to plant the seeds in their intended final location outside in suitable habitat areas around Burnaby and also Blaine, Washington. Any suggestions on when I should plant these seeds? I suppose they will be fine in the refrigerator for more than 60 days.

    All of my seeds come from a single healthy specimen growing near the post office in Bellingham, Washington. There are very few arbutus trees in the area so my hope is that the seeds will produce trees that are slightly more resistant to marginal arbutus habitat. I checked the few specimens in the Burnaby area and none of these trees had berries when I was looking earlier this month. Thanks to information obtained here and from other sources, I am much better prepared for propagation this year than I was last year. Arbutus is very picky about its habitat, but I believe I have found quite a few good prospects so we'll see how it goes.


    Thanks,
    Eric
     
  23. Anna Kadlec

    Anna Kadlec Active Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    100
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    South Surrey, Canada
    Despite transplanting in the Spring, the drought of the summer, and now the monsoons of fall, I'm happy to report that my little arbutus tree never even lost a leaf... it's looking just fine :)

    I have no idea about your seed question. I would think you should wait until Spring to plant them outside, but I have no basis for this thought other than gut feel.
     
  24. Eric Odle

    Eric Odle Member

    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Blaine, WA
    Well, not one of my seeds has germinated. Perhaps because I kept them in a sealed bag over the winter? They may have frozen slightly in the bag of the refrigerator.

    Plan B was to transplant some very young arbutus seedlings from a native stand. I dug up a good deal of soil around the seedlings to completely avoid disturbing the root. I also marked which direction was south and planted them in the same orientation. And since the location where I planted them in my yard in Blaine has full south-facing sun, I built a temporary shade to protect the seedlings from the full summer sun. I expect to remove the shade in the fall and then they'll be on their own.

    I planted the seedlings in early June, the first photo I attached. There were a total of 6 plants in five locations (one location had two seedlings growing right next to each other). 3 plants had good protection behind the shade, the twins have afternoon shade only, and one seedling is not protected at all.

    The second photo shows the plants about a week ago. The middle plant with good shade has died, and the one in the full sunlight is still alive but with reddish-brown leaves that suggest that it won't be for much longer. The twins are still fairly green but haven't grown much yet. Two of the trees behind the shade appear to be actively growing, and one of them has big, healthy leaves and actually looks like it is thriving.

    It's a real crap shot with these trees, but I am persistent. I'll be harvesting berries to try and produce viable seeds for next year. Any suggestions on where I might have gone wrong there?
     

    Attached Files:

  25. pmurphy

    pmurphy Contributor

    Messages:
    883
    Likes Received:
    662
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    If you would like to get a hold of Arbutus - arbutus menziesii - try this "local" supplier in Washington state
    The Desert Northwest http://www.desertnorthwest.com/local/retail.html
    * they have them listed for local sales only, not mail order.......1 gallon pots for $16
     

Share This Page