Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Seedling's Progress - New Natives from Seed

One of my goals is to increase awareness of Native Annuals and their possibilities in the garden.  A major part of that is encouraging the plants to reseed themselves into the garden.  This is starting to get complicated, especially where I have combined a number of different plants.  It behooves me to learn what the seedlings of both the desired and undesired plants look like.  I getting to the point where I can tell which seedlings are familiar, even if I'm not sure which one it might be.  Here are some photos from this spring of some native seedlings, both 'wild' and ones that I have started in pots.

Lilium seedlings are just a single blade.
The seeds that I am most excited about are for Philadelphia Lily, Lilium philadelphicum.  I wanted to get some experience with a native lily and I chose this one because it's habitat is most like what I keep at home, dry upland woods.  Since I thought that germination would be tricky, I tried several methods: cold moist sand for 60 days, moist soilless mix for 2 weeks at room temperature then 60 days in the frig, room temperature seeding and winter-sowing.  The cold moist stratification gave me nearly 100% germination.  All the other methods were about 50%.  Now it is time to pot these guys up.  I think it will be several years before these will be mature enough to bloom, but I think (hope) it will be worth it.



Partridge Pea is a native annual found in the eastern half of the US.  It germinated well after a 10 day cold stratification.  This plant is able to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere though its association with rhizobial bacteria.  The seed I purchased form Prairie Moon Nursery came with a packet of inoculum to ensure that these bacteria would be present for the new plant.  The leaflets fold together at night and when it is being roughly handled.  I have already planted out a bunch of these along a roadside, where I am hoping they will be able to reseed themselves. 











Indoor sown plants are lankier than these outdoor plants.
Another one of the new plants I started this year was Vigin's Bower, Clematis virginiana.  While it is a pretty common woodland species, I have never noticed it before.  I want to test it out under the dreaded Norway Maple.  I got excellent germination from plants started indoors after 2 month moist stratification in sand.  I also started some outdoors in mid-January, using the Winter Sowing technique.  I think I got better germination using the refrigerator-stratified seeds, but the outdoor plants are more compact.

I also started more Woodland Sunflower, Helianthus divaricatus, and Crowned Beggarticks, Bidens coronata, using the Winter Sowing method.  Germination was moderate, but the resulting plants are of good size and require no hardening off before transplanting.  This was probably a poor year to really evaluate the winter-sowing method.  Since it was quite warm and relatively dry, the covered containers did not get very much moisture in through the pour-spout, making them warmer and drier - not what you want for cold stratification of seeds.

Random Seedlings: 1. Sulfur Cosmos (blunt leaf tips); 2. Annual grass
(single blades); 3. Oxalis (3 leaflets); Tomato (hairy stems and smell)

When you are counting on plants reseeding themselves in the garden, weeding and maintenance become a big issue.  In this photo of random seedlings I can recognize some of these as desirable and other as definite 'weeds'.  Possible desirable seedlings here include  Agastache 'Navaho Sunset', Bidens coronata, Cosmos sulphureusMonarda punctata, Salvia coccinia, and Rudbeckia hirta.  The largest seedling in the photo is most likely a Sulfur Cosmos, though it could also be a Bidens.  This is a keeper.  The easy to ID weeds are the grasses and Oxalis.  The grasses have only single leaves (monocots) and the Oxalis has a 3-lobed clover-like leaf.  All of the desired plants in this area are dicots, they have two cotyledon leaves.  This makes them easy to distinguish from the grasses.  Where it gets tricky is all of the tomato seeds that come in with the compost.  (I know, I don't cook my compost hot enough.) These seedlings have a tomato smell when bruised and the stem is covered with little hairs.  At this juncture my strategy is to remove only those weeds I'm sure about (grass, oxalis and tomatos) and watch to see how the others develop.

These seedlings are about an inch tall, but strongly aromatic.
One of my favorite Native Annuals that is catching hold around the house is False Pennyroyal, Hedeoma pulegioides.  It's a small plant that will grow on poor soil and in the gaps in the sidewalk.  It is most easily recognized by it powerful aromatic/minty scent.  Usually just lightly touching a leaf is enough to release the scent.

This is the second year these have managed come back on their own.
Red-whisker Clammyweed, Polanisia dodecandra, is naturally found in gravelly soil along creek beds.  I had a hard time getting it to grow under cultivation (I think it resented being transplanted), but now it is showing up in other potted plants which had been nearby the previous season.

These rosettes may be from fall-germinated seeds
American Bellflower, Campanulastrum americanum, has gotten pretty well established since I first started it in 2009.  The first year rosette will stay small all year and take off, growing to 4+ feet, in year two.  I have a few second year plants that are 2 foot tall already.




Fresh shoots from a plant that was started last year.
While I have the feeling that everything is coming early this year I nearly tossed out some pots that I thought were empty.  Just before I did, I found that the Flowering Spruge, Euphorbia corollata, was sprouting in good form.  Another late riser is Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa.  While one plant has been up for several weeks, a second, less established neighbor, is just now sprouting.

Now the watching continues.  Will there be more seedlings coming up?  Will I figure what's what before it's too late?

4 comments:

Mary Pellerito said...

I too am trying to recognize the natives growing in the 'wild' parts for the garden and the invasives and the weeds. I admire you for growing natives from seeds. I'm not there yet. So much to learn and the more I learn the more there is to know.

Cindy Carpenter said...

Thank you for the detailed discussions and photos - great stuff! I tried to grow False Pennyroyal from seed last year, with no success. Are you selling any of your seedlings? I'm looking for plants that may take hold in the boxes in the sidewalk, sometimes under Norway Maples - a tough combination.

Thanks, too, for the note about Butterfly Weed's late arrival. I'd about given up hope, but maybe it will appear soon.

cindyc3 said...

Thank you for the detailed discussions and photos - great stuff! I tried to grow False Pennyroyal from seed last year, with no success. Are you selling any of your seedlings? I'm looking for plants that may take hold in the boxes in the sidewalk, sometimes under Norway Maples - a tough combination.

Thanks, too, for the note about Butterfly Weed's late arrival. I'd about given up hope, but maybe it will appear soon.

Curtis said...

Cindy,
The literature on Hedeoma indicates that it requires no pretreatment to get germination. I cold stratified mine for 6 weeks in moist sand and got very good germination in 5 days after sowing. That may help in the future.