Fall is a busy time in the Wister Center Greenhouse. Volunteers work on a variety of jobs including taking cuttings of tender and tropical plants; potting up cuttings; overwintering succulent plants and this year they have been busy harvesting magnolia seeds to contribute to the Magnolia Society International’s seed exchange, The Seed Counter.
Most magnolia seeds are found in large cone-like fruits called follicles.
Once the follicles open up and reveal the seed which is often red and covered in a waxy coat, the seed can be harvested.
After the seeds are harvested, they are soaked in water for three days in order to loosen the seed coat. Our volunteers found the most effective way to remove the seed from the seed coat after soaking was to squeeze the fruit. The seed simply squirts out of the fruit.
The seeds are then dried for a day or two. The seeds are packaged in slightly moist vermiculite and refrigerated. Do not store the seeds dry, because they rapidly lose viability under those conditions.
The moist seeds are stratified for 2 to 4 months at 32 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit before planting. You can also fall- plant the seeds outdoors to allow nature to provide the cool, moist conditions for stratification.
Throughout the process it is important to keep the name and the source with the seed. Those who subscribe to the Magnolia Society’s seed exchange will make their selections based on species and source. To learn more about the Magnolia Society International and to participate in the seed exchange go to: www.magnoliasociety.org. Also, consider attending the next annual meeting in the Bay Area and Sonoma Valley.
As a whimsical aside on the wonders of seed germination, enjoy this video of our former summer intern, Jared Barnes impersonating our favorite super hero, Superseed. Happy propagating!