Black Raspberries are Coming into Season

I’ve been eyeing up the ripening black raspberries for a the better part of a week or so. Today I finally picked a few that are absolutely, in arguably completely ripe. Perhaps my biggest beef with raspberries, is that thay can look attractive a day or two before they’ve really developed their full on flavor. They’re there now!

Pokeweed and Butterfly Weed

Today with the heat bearing down on us for the third day in a row, I noticed the almost inconsequential blossoms on pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) forming on one of the very large plants just north of my shed. A few minutes earlier I noticed that a butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) in full sun was starting to break out with the very bright orange blossoms that just drag in the butterflies. Both are very attractive plants that have wide natural ranges, and are worth growing if you have a bit of spapce that can dedicated to more native type habitat.

Wild Strawberries

Fragaria vesca is both the common wood strawberry as well as the alpine strawberry. My understanding of the difference is that the wood strawberry variants tend to put out runners in a more or less normal fashion, where as the alpine variants put out few or no runners. Reich also mentions F. moschata, however I found F. vesca seeds readily available, and I mostly stopped looking at that point.

I picked up packets of F. vesca ‘Golden Alexandria’ and F. vesca ‘Alpine Yellow’, a wood variety and an alpine variety.

Most every source I consulted agreed that strawberries of most sorts germinate quite easily in normal garden soil, usually with somewhat staggered germination over several weeks to months.

I’ve dropped some of each of the two aforementioned strawberry varieties onto my usual soil mix indoors, under lights. I’m looking forward to seeing what results.

Wolfberry Plants Breaking the Soil (again)

So for the second time this year, I have Lycium plants emerging from the soil. They are tiny little bits of plants, and in my experience over the last few years very tender in their infancy. They sprout reliably though, from every source of seed I’ve tried, and with a high percentage germination.

This time indoors, under lights, no slugs, no bright UV rays, we’ll see how much further we can make it.

Raisin Tree Seeds

There seems something surreal about the idea of Raisin Tree (Hovenia dulcis) seeds. Really? Seeds that will grow into a tree that bears raisins? Got some magic bean stalk seeds too? The bright side to this species is that seed seems to be the usual method of propagation in the USA, and the very durable seed coat that slows germination should also result in a very long lived seed. The seeds are small, but quite beautiful. I can imagine that they might be of interest in bead work.

The raisins in this case are not dried grapes or currants, but rather the swollen, sweet fruit stems of the tree, after the fruits themselves, which are inedible, are fully ripened.

JLHudson’s catalog says to nick the seeds and plant them in warm temperatures to sprout in 4-8 weeks.

California Rare Fruit Grower’s page on the Raisin Tree suggests nicking the seed, sowing in potting soil, covering with clear plastic and placing in bright light. CRFG also suggests that exposing the seeds to 140F water three times in three days will substitute for scarification.

PFaF suggests scarifying stored seed and planting in very early spring. It mentions that seed may not sprout for a year.

Reich states that nicking the seed should result in germination within a week to a couple of months.

I’m suspicious that this plant will give significantly better germination results with bright light or with very warm temperatures. The seeds were buggers to nick. I finally got a decent rhythm going with a pair of pliers and a small file. I can imagine that one of the other scarification techniques would be much preferred on a larger scale. I’m planning on nicked about twenty seeds, starting ten in direct sun inside a ziplock with a bit of paper towel as a moisture resevoir. The next ten are started in a similar fashion, but in less intense light. The remaining seeds I might start in refrigeration this fall.

The Passion of the Flowers!

Passion flower is named in reference to the Passion of Christ. The structure of the flowers struck early missionaries to the New World as being an ideal mnemonic for teaching the gospels of Christ.

The species I am interested in here is Passiflora incarnata, the maypop. None of the other species really have a chance of surviving this far north.

I’ve had some experience with passion flowers in the past. One of the keys is too keep the moisture on and the heat up.

CRFG mentions planting the seed 1/2 to 1 inch deep, and that stored seed has a lower, slower germination rate.

JLHudson’s catalog suggests a 2 month moist, cold pre-treatment for the seeds.

PFaF suggests soaking for 12 hours in water, then planting in a greenhouse in late winter or early spring.

Reich’s commentary on starting maypop is consistent with what I am familiar with. Warmer means faster sprouting. He suggests that at 90F you might wait only a week or two for seedlings. He goes a bit further and suggests that light inhibits germination, and thus he recommends the seeds be planted deeply. He also recommends soaking the seeds in water for a day before planting.

I put about 2 dozen seeds into a 1 gallon black plastic pot, 1″ or better down in the soil, in full sun. I think I’ll start the next batch this winter in the refrigerator.

Date Plum

Diospyros lotus isn’t technically one of Lee Reich’s Uncommon Fruits, but D. kaki and D. virginiana are, and he mentions the date plum several times. I like dates, and the idea of growing something that approximates them is appealing.

Deno’s books aren’t helpful with this species, but lists the native persimmon (D. virginiana) as germinating with cold then warm treatment. I’ve done the same thing with the native persimmon with very high success rates. Granted that was with fresh seed, and this is dry stored seed. Deno suggests just warmth and moisture for sprouting D. texana. This is consistent with JL Hudson’s catalog suggestion of “Germinates in 1 – 3 months with no prechill needed”. The downsize to this is that three months from now I might have seedlings in September. There won’t be any time for them to harden off for winter.

In previous situations like this I’ve dragged seedlings inside to grow over winter under lights. The sometimes drop their leaves for a few weeks when I take them back outside, but usually take off and adjust to a normal seasonal schedule after that.

Plants for a Future suggests that seed is best sown fresh, and that stored seed may need to be given cool stratification to break dormancy.

There is a handbook for seedbanks that suggests that cold treatment is necessary for this species as well.

I’ve split this packet, and I’ll start some in the warmth now. The packet had a little over 60 seeds, so I’ve started about 30. If I get good germination I’ll plant the rest in very early spring next year. If I don’t, I’ll start the rest in the fall, and cycle the entire lot of seeds through a several month’s long cold cycle.

The seeds don’t look like any persimmon (Diospyros) seeds I’ve seen before. The shape and color are somewhat similar, but they are so much smaller as to look like adorable little toy persimmon seeds.

Cornelian Cherry

The Cornelian Cherry is a dogwood, not a cherry. Cornus mas is commonly grown from seed rather than vegetatively propagated, and while most sources describe the seed as best when fresh, most sources also seem to indicate that it dry stores decently well for at least a couple of years.

JLHudson’s catalog suggests sowing in the fall to germinate not the following spring, but the spring after that. It also recommends giving 2 months warm moist treatment (or just nick the seeds) followed by 2 to 4 months cold moist treatment.

PFaF recommends stored seed be stratified (cold, moist treatment) for 3-4 months. It also mentions that germination, especially of stored seed, can easily drag out for 18 months. Like The JLHudson catalog, PFaF suggests that a warm period before the cold period and/or scarification might help with germination.

Deno’s work in his second supplement reports good success with sprouting seeds starting with warmth and GA-3 (gibberellic acid), then moving to cool temperatures after 3 months of warm. It goes on to state that all those seedlings eventually rotted. I have GA-3 available, but my results with it have been mixed, and this doesn’t strike me as a situation where it is likely to be terribly useful. His work also makes a reference to oscillating temperatures (warm days, cool nights) being possibly useful. This nests nicely with most of the literature suggesting that the seeds be sown outdoors in spring or fall.

Reich’s own advice for Cornelian Cherry closely parallels that from the JLHudson catalog and from PFaF. Nicking or warm treatment followed by months of cool, moist conditions, with germination being strung out for possibly several spring seasons.

Again I expect to split the packet. The suggestion of nicking the seeds seems to be too common not to do it. One half will be started in fall, late September perhaps, warm, and without nicking. The other half I’ll start in the winter, sometime in December, and I’ll nick those and store them in the fridge. At that time if the first batch hasn’t made any obvious change, I may nick them as well.

Beware the Flying Dragon!

Poncirus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’ is the name of a dwarfed version of the bitter orange, or the hardy orange.

As you might guess from its common name, the Flying Dragon doesn’t likely qualify for inclusion in Lee Reich’s Uncommon Fruit because it is not good for eating right off of the plant. Of course Lee believes the black currant is palatable fresh, and there are plenty who would argue that point.

I wasn’t going to include this species as part of this project, but the seeds were handed to me (sourced from JLHudson) and perishable, and it just looks like a darn cool plant to grow.

The only place I really found cultural information for growing the seeds was Plants for a Future, and JLHudson’s catalog. The catalog says “Germinates best in the dark, cover seed well.” and PFaF suggests that germination of seeds follows a pattern similar to many temperature fruit trees, refrigerator-cold for a time, and then out into the warm temperatures.

I ended up with approximately 30 seeds, and I planted about 10 each in three 1 gallon black plastic pots.