Opuntia Seed Germination

Discussion in 'Cacti and Succulents' started by The New Guy, May 21, 2009.

  1. The New Guy

    The New Guy Active Member

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    I’ve been collecting seeds from cactus pears (O. ficus-indica?) that I’ve bought at the grocery store to eat. I have done everything to get them to germinate, but with no luck so far. I can’t figure out what’s wrong. I know opuntia seeds are tough, but I thought I would have gotten a few sprouts by now. Could it be that the seeds are not viable?

    Here’s what I’ve done so far: (1) collected the seeds, let them dry for a day or two and then planted them, (2) planted the seeds straight from the fruit without drying, and (3) soaked the seeds for several days and then planted them.

    Now I’m trying another approach: nicking the seeds before soaking and planting.

    Am I doing something wrong?

    Thanks for any help.
     
  2. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    You should be good by nicking the seeds, soaking, and planting; it's what I do. Be aware that they are VERY slow to germinate.

    However, there is the possibility that the seeds themselves are sterile: try to find out from the market where you bought them if they're local fruits or imports. Imports are normally irradiated, which reduces the viability of any seed.
     
  3. The New Guy

    The New Guy Active Member

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    Lorax,

    I’m new to this seed scarification thing . . . How do you nick them?
     
  4. Laticauda

    Laticauda Active Member

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    I use toe nail clippers, it's safer than any other method I've thought of, lol.
     
  5. The New Guy

    The New Guy Active Member

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    Do you use the end of the cutting edge to make a cut in the seed coat, or do you clip off a whole piece of the seed? Where on the seed do you perform this? Is it bad if you cut some of the embryo or endosperm?
     
  6. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    I also use nail clippers, and nip off the point of the seed, just a tiny fraction of it; it doesn't seem to hurt if a teensy bit of embryo or endosperm is damaged. In nature, these seeds would be going through the digestive tract of a bird or beastie, and I imagine that they get damaged somwhat betweeb the eating and the excreting.
     
  7. Eric La Fountaine

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

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    Possibly the fruit at the store are not ripe enough for viable seed??
     
  8. Laticauda

    Laticauda Active Member

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    That's a good point, I know with tomatoes, they pluck them while they are still green, so they "ripen" off the plant, and what you end up with is a softer, riper-looking version of the unripe fruit. (did that make sense?)
     
  9. Kada

    Kada Active Member 10 Years

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    i grew mine from fruit no problem in moist coco coir. they seem to sprout well in moist soil :)
     
  10. The New Guy

    The New Guy Active Member

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    That’s what I was thinking. Either that, or they need a lot of work to get going.

    Nevertheless, I’ve got some nicked and soaking. I hope third . . . well, sixth . . . time’s the charm.
     
  11. mandarin

    mandarin Active Member 10 Years

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    How long have you waited for them to germinate?
     
  12. The New Guy

    The New Guy Active Member

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    Well, I’ve done them in several batches. The ones I soaked (without nicking), I planted about a week ago. The ones I planted straight from the fruit, I put in soil about 2 weeks ago. As for dry ones, I’ve saved up a few and I’ve planted them in several batches ranging from 3 weeks to about 7 weeks ago.
     
  13. mandarin

    mandarin Active Member 10 Years

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    Too early to give up, then. Opuntia seeds may germinate after 2 weeks, but also after several months. It depends a lot on the species.
     
  14. The New Guy

    The New Guy Active Member

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    After 3 months and several thousand attempts, I finally got 4 little sprouts.
     
  15. ShearMe

    ShearMe Active Member

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    Woo Hoo!!! Show us some pics once they develop. :)
     
  16. IanM

    IanM Member

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    Hi, Lots of Opuntia species are frost germinants. Look at the plant's natural distribution. If it comes from an area where frosts occur as a general rule each winter, chances are the species is a "frost germinant". Without a period of sub-zero (minus deg. Celcius) temps, the seeds from such species may not germinate at all, or, if they do, may germinate slowly and sporadically. They may even die quickly after germinating or remain weak for a long time unless the seed had been exposed to cold and frost.
    You may have good success (and greatly increase germination times) by putting the seed in an envelope and placing this in the deep freeze compartment of your refrigerator for about 3-6 weeks. Take the seed out, maybe sow some straight away, but leave most of it until the weather gets really HOT, like in mid-summer. Keep the medium moist at all times and cover the tray with glass or enclose the whole seedling tray in a clear plastic container. Use sterilized seed raising mix. Don't be afraid to leave this in a sunny place for lengthy periods, but lift the lid occasionally to check for germination. Once the seed germinates, gradually remove the cover over the next few weeks. Maybe spray with a fungicide if any fungal growth appears.
    Seed should germinate with this method within a few weeks, but sometimes takes longer, up to 8 months. If nothing happens, try digging up the seed and retreating. You can also leave seed trays out on the middle of your lawn if you live in an area that gets frosts in winter. The freeze and thaw cycles will work to break down the tough seed coat and promote germination. The seed will sit there for months and do nothing until the weather warms up again in spring. Natural rainfall can also suddenly stimulate stubborn seed into growth, but be careful not to let it drown the trays or wash out the seed.
    The seed of tropical Opuntias that do not experience frost in winter also seem to benefit from stratification. This means that you place the seed in an envelope in the refrigerator (not deep freeze!) for several months before sowing. Some people like to mix up moist peat moss and sharp sand in a plastic bag and place the seeds into this mix, then place the bag in the fridge. Either way can bring success.
    Hope these tips help.
     
  17. JenRi

    JenRi Active Member

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    Congrats on germination, all my attempts at germinating cacti seeds have failed miserably...I might try again now its warmer:)
     
  18. crmauch

    crmauch Member

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    If you freeze or stratify the seeds, would you nick them before, or after freeze/stratify or not at all? And would you soak them?

    Opuntias can be tricky and frustrating. Sometimes they'll germinate very easily and sometimes not at all.

    Most other cacti, with the exception of Pediocacti and Schlerocacti (I've read), seem to be easy. I put a sandy mix (I like to use plastic salad containers from fast food places or plastic Chinese food containers), moisten the mix, sprinkle the seeds on top of the mix, cover, and put them under artificial lights with a timer with the lights on 13-14 hours. Have gotten excellent germination this way.
     
  19. kinghedes

    kinghedes Active Member

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    the way i had luck was i got one of them flat fishing tackle boxs withe the dividers and i drilled holes in the bottom for drainage and and it in a gallon ziplock bag with a few holes in it and that were extremely well compared to wen i put them in a bowl with a glass plat on to
     

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  20. JenRi

    JenRi Active Member

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    Thanks very much crmauch and kinghedes for those ideas. Do you use artificial lights at all kinghedes?
     
  21. kinghedes

    kinghedes Active Member

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    no i just put them out side in a stop that gets mostly shade
     
  22. JenRi

    JenRi Active Member

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    Thanks.....I don't think I can do that in the UK, especially as its fall now but I can probably put them in the airing cupboard/on the radiator.
     
  23. mandarin

    mandarin Active Member 10 Years

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    Do not keep them too warm, it inhibits germination. The optimal temperature varies but typically lies in the range 20-30 °C. They also need some light to germinate. Which species have you sown?
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2009
  24. JenRi

    JenRi Active Member

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    Mixed species, since I put them in the airing cupboard that might have been where I went wrong.....I was only following the instructions that came with the seeds though. So in a room on a radiator (assuming it doesn't get too hot) might be better than in the total dark of the airing cupboard?

    Thanks Mandarin
     
  25. mandarin

    mandarin Active Member 10 Years

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    Yes, for mixed seeds I would try about 25 °C, high humidity and some light during the day. If the tray are placed in sunlight a piece of thin paper or fabric should be used as protection, seedlings turn red and stop growing in strong light. There is also a big risk for overheating, of course. It's ok if the temperature drops during night, it can even be advantageous.

    The needs varies, I once had some Rhipsalis seeds that germinated in my fridge ...
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2009

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