Sunday, March 20, 2016

Green In The Seed Pots

Eleven days ago trailing arbutus seeds were moved from the refrigerator to carefully prepared natural soil.  How is that for a contradiction in terms?  Covered with plastic film, the pots have undergone visual inspection several times each day.  We thought that we saw specks of green and today the plastic film was set aside so that we could have a closer look.  Examination with a loupe revealed the fine hairs on both the stems and leaves that are so characteristic of arbutus plants.  We think that a few of our seeds have germinated.

The round reddish brown objects are swollen arbutus seeds.  A really close look will reveal their characteristic pattern of white spots.  The three spots of green are thought to be newly sprouted arbutus plants.  Both the seeds and the plants are incredibly small.  The gigantic tan logs are actually pieces of shredded pine needles.  The size of both the seeds and the new plants makes one wonder how new arbutus plants ever survive in the wild.  A stiff breeze could easily uproot them at this stage of development.  Any loss of moisture now would surely end them.  These factors may explain why we have yet to see new plants from seed produced here and left outdoors.

The William Cullina book in the photo contains the most comprehensive information about working with arbutus that we have been able to find.  It warns that the big danger now is damping off.  High humidity was necessary to coax the seeds into sprouting but now the seed leaves must be allowed to dry some.  Since we have never been successful at this we split the potential for damage.  One pot was uncovered so that the leaves could dry.  The unsprouted seeds in this pot may also dry out and die.  The second pot was left covered.  The new plants may succumb to damping off but more seeds may sprout.

Successfully growing arbutus plants from seed remains in the distant future but we have a solid start.  If we have even a single mature plant from these seeds we will be thrilled.  Arbutus plants outside are getting closer to opening their flower buds.  We are concerned about the effects of our cold winter days that included no snow cover.  We are also concerned about the impact on the more newly transplanted arbutus that endured a hot dry fall when I was unable to bring them water.  Those buds look shriveled and brown but we remain hopeful.  Perhaps it is now time for us to quit fooling around and get some lettuce seeds planted.

By May first, it was obvious that all of the sprouts were in fact common weeds.  For some reason I continue to defy conventional wisdom concerning the use of a sterile potting medium and insist on using natural soil.  While no weeds grow under the white pine tree where I harvested the potting soil, weed seeds were in residence there.  I have yet to have an arbutus seed sprout and none of my cuttings have ever rooted.  New plants from seed produced here have not yet made an appearance.

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