Monday, June 16, 2014

Disappearing Seed Clusters

We have been watching these arbutus seed clusters for more than one month.  William Cullina warned that once the seed clusters matured and began to open, rodents would quickly eat the seeds.  Our plan was to follow his directions and harvest an entire clump when the first pod opened.  Our resident chipmunks have not read the article.  When I returned today intent on taking this swollen cluster, I found it already gone.  Chipmunks are great hiders of food when it is plentiful.  This nipped cluster is possibly buried nearby.  Now we get to watch for the appearance of new arbutus from seed plants if the chipmunks fail to find and consume all of the seed.

This plant has appeared in previous posts.  It sported several seed clusters and they were reddish colored.  Our other plants show white or green seed pods and there has been no change in color as the clusters mature.  The red color may be from this plants previous exposure to full sunlight all day.  All but one of this plants several seed clusters suffered early harvest from wild life.  I took the last remaining cluster today.

Two seed clusters and one broken stem complete today's harvest.  The seed clusters are on a window sill in the basement and we hope that they will continue to develop and reach full maturity.  I want a controlled  planting of some seed.  I also want a picture of an open seed pod.  Several clusters were left on other plants but I expect that the chipmunks will have at them.  My interference is certainly not nature's way but to compensate for my meddling I want to plant out several from seed daughter plants in various favorable wild locations.  If the chipmunks will help with that, then my goal of increasing the number of wild arbutus stands can still be realized.

Two stems of new growth have been accidentally broken off as I poked around trying to keep tabs on developing seed.  Both broken stems have been given an opportunity to claim continued life.  With no trimming, the fresh breaks were dusted with rooting hormone, placed in sandy woods soil and covered with a clear plastic bottomless juice bottle.  They will be watched to see if they develop a crown and roots.  My previous attempts to make new plants from cuttings were dismal failures.  Perhaps a natural break in the new stem will send out roots.

In spite of the setback with the seed clusters, we are extremely pleased with the progress of our first transplants.  Our four original plants and the one from seed daughter plant have formed an impressive clump.  Bright green new growth is everywhere.  The bare soil in the lower right corner of the picture has been prepared to receive seeds.  Part of a plastic nursery tray has been placed in a depression in the soil.  Screened soil taken from the base of our ancient white pine was used to fill the tray.  We usually try to plant wild flowers in raw wild soil but here we needed fine soil to allow for movement without root damage of young plants.  Now all we need is some mature seed.

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