Beech Seed Stratification - Early Sprouting

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Beech Seed Stratification - Early Sprouting

Post  heyyou82 on Tue Dec 30, 2014 11:07 pm

(Cross post from BNut)

In mid-October I started stratifying some Japanese Beech seeds purchased from a seed house.

I started with 29 seeds of which 18 sank and 11 floated during the overnight soak.

Stratification has been in the refrigerator, in damp paper towels, in plastic bags - I've been checking the dampness every few weeks or so.

Today, 2 1/2 months after starting, I did a full check on them, including opening the paper towels to check for mold and rot (6 seeds thrown away). What is concerning to me is that 12 have already sprouted a root- the longest being nearly 1 inch in length.

I started the seed stratification right away in October as I read stratification up to 150 days increased success, but now I'm afraid they are growing too soon - I didn't plan on planting until March. No first leaves / cotyledons, which is good.

Any thoughts on what to do? I need to slow them down I think? I could maybe move them from the fridge to my cold area where my trees are, which finally dropped to below 40F, but it has been consistently warmer than the refrigerator this year until now.

Any help appreciated!

heyyou82
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Re: Beech Seed Stratification - Early Sprouting

Post  leatherback on Wed Dec 31, 2014 7:15 am

Good to hear you are having success!

I have never been much of a fan of fridge-stratification myself. I tried a few times and every time I had seeds rotting away from me. Must be doing something woring there. I prefer to chuck seeds in substrate (Crushed lava) and place the tray with the mixture outside. Nature knows.

In your situation I would plant the seeds and place them in a sheltered location outside. Not in full wind sun etc. Just between some shrubs. Put some fine-mesh protection against mice and wait for spring.

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Re: Beech Seed Stratification - Early Sprouting

Post  Leo Schordje on Wed Dec 31, 2014 5:48 pm

You are having excellent results, no rot problems in your refrigerator. Just keep them cold until time to plant out in spring. Don't worry.

Don't panic, it is normal for seeds to sprout during stratification. Beech are related to oaks and chestnuts. I've done both oaks and chestnuts, it is normal for them to send out a root, sometimes quite long early in the stratification. Just keep them in the refrigerator, and keep checking the moisture. They will then "rest" the remainder of the time period. When it is safe to plant outside in spring, bring them out of the refrigerator and plant them out.

If you pull the ones with roots out too soon, there is the possibility that they will not grow stems and leaves. They might, but the total stratification process might not be fully complete this early in the winter.

If you have a protected growing area, I suppose you could plant some out now to experiment, but this time of year light in a windowsill or even under lights is usually too weak for good growth.

If you plant them into pots and put them outside be aware that they are only "hardened off" to refrigerator temperatures. If you get a cold snap, the significantly colder than a refrigerator temperatures may harm the seedlings. So I would just keep them in the "fridge" until April or when ever you would normally start peas and other spring vegetables outside.

Leo Schordje
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Re: Beech Seed Stratification - Early Sprouting

Post  heyyou82 on Thu Jan 01, 2015 2:32 pm

leatherback wrote:Good to hear you are having success!

I have never been much of a fan of fridge-stratification myself. I tried a few times and every time I had seeds rotting away from me. Must be doing something woring there. I prefer to chuck seeds in substrate (Crushed lava) and place the tray with the mixture outside. Nature knows.

In your situation I would plant the seeds and place them in a sheltered location outside. Not in full wind sun etc. Just between some shrubs. Put some fine-mesh protection against mice and wait for spring.

Thanks for your comments leatherback- in my area overwintering is done indoors as it gets too cold for unprotected trees outside, hence my decision to go with the refrigerator stratification method.


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Re: Beech Seed Stratification - Early Sprouting

Post  heyyou82 on Thu Jan 01, 2015 2:38 pm

Leo Schordje wrote:You are having excellent results, no rot problems in your refrigerator. Just keep them cold until time to plant out in spring. Don't worry.

Don't panic, it is normal for seeds to sprout during stratification. Beech are related to oaks and chestnuts. I've done both oaks and chestnuts, it is normal for them to send out a root, sometimes quite long early in the stratification. Just keep them in the refrigerator, and keep checking the moisture. They will then "rest" the remainder of the time period. When it is safe to plant outside in spring, bring them out of the refrigerator and plant them out.

If you pull the ones with roots out too soon, there is the possibility that they will not grow stems and leaves. They might, but the total stratification process might not be fully complete this early in the winter.

If you have a protected growing area, I suppose you could plant some out now to experiment, but this time of year light in a windowsill or even under lights is usually too weak for good growth.

If you plant them into pots and put them outside be aware that they are only "hardened off" to refrigerator temperatures. If you get a cold snap, the significantly colder than a refrigerator temperatures may harm the seedlings. So I would just keep them in the "fridge" until April or when ever you would normally start peas and other spring vegetables outside.

Leo, thanks for your reply- I appreciate not only your experience, but also your locale, as it seems you are in my neck of the woods.

I'll take your advise and wait it out!

I do have one problem to figure out. Being my first time doing this, and not expecting roots so early, I didn't think to point the pointed end of the seeds away from the fold in the wet paper towel - i.e. all of the sprouted roots grew into the fold and started wrapping back onto the seeds - so I need to figure out a plan to coax them back straight to encourage a straight trunk when planted (assuming they stay healthy). Learning as I go!

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Re: Beech Seed Stratification - Early Sprouting

Post  Leo Schordje on Thu Jan 01, 2015 6:31 pm

I would not worry about the "bent and tangled" tap roots. They will be roots after all, we want the roots to form a shallow root pad. the trunk will be above the cotyledons - the food storing leaf like structures that make up the seed. Anything below the cotyledons is essentially root tissue, and any branching off the young tap root will become secondary roots, not branches with leaves. For most species, if exposed root tissue can form bark like the trunk, but if buried, will only form roots.

I have had pretty good success (better than 50% surviving) with trimming these winter primary tap roots quite a bit shorter as I plant them out in spring. To make a flat root pad, you want to discourage the primary tap root from becoming too large. When you plant them out, the entire seed and roots will be buried below soil level.

You can still get very straight trunks if you want them, no problem. Conversely, if you want a couple twisty beech, plant the most twisty with the seed and some of the initial tap root exposed. Then continue bending and twisting the trunk by wiring the tree toward the end of the first growing season.

Seedlings are the "silly putty" of the plant world. With time you can create anything. But you do have to think long term, 5 years, up to several decades to bring some plans to fruition. No reason to not plan for long time lines.

I plant seed with the thought of having starter trees for others to finish in the future. I like this aspect of the hobby.

Leo Schordje
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Seed update

Post  heyyou82 on Sun Mar 29, 2015 11:40 pm

After 5 1/2 months, the 29 original seeds have dropped to 15 that have sprouted a root (longest was about 3") 4 haven't done anything (unlikely to sprout I think) and 10 that were thrown out over time, due to rot.

I'm not sure I would do the damp paper towel method again, as you can see that many of the roots got caught in the fibers, bent, twisted and broke because of this. I attempted to "right" as many as I could when planting, i.e. some are planted on their side (90 degree root exit from seed) and others are point end down (straight exit of root)

I'm glad I followed Leo's prudent advice and didn't Rush the seeds over the winter.

Here's hoping continued success as the seeds hopefully sprout over the next few weeks (indoors, near a window).

I have the pots numbered - I am going to be tracking each, including some that I will follow the "cut the tap root" handling, and others that I'll let the roots grow natural.



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Re: Beech Seed Stratification - Early Sprouting

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