(DOD meaning: Dead on delivery)

I don’t know precisely if the DOD term was coined by the renowned Prof. Norman Deno but surely he reminded me of it while reading a delightful Bulletin of the American Rock Garden Society from 1991. DOD refers to the fact that seeds that require to be kept moist after collecting, when stored and/or delivered otherwise (by Seed companies or in Seed exchanges), are actually dead and there is little to expect of them in terms of germination. In his article named – Fatal Treatments of Seed he elaborates on how to kill seeds of 12 species by practicing wrong techniques of storing and/or germinating. For Trillium albidum, Fatal means: dry storage.

Same goes for many other Trillium species, and among them, Trillium grandiflorum. After collecting (see how the fruit looks when it’s ready), such seeds should be either sown right away or stored moist. When kept at room temperature, a few seeds will emerge radicles by fall. The others, like in other hypogeal germinators, will grow a radicle/baby rhizome or tuber in the coming season, and then send up the first leaf only after another cold cycle (that means in their second year).

These are a few Trillium grandiflorum seeds with emerged radicles that I found last week, during my routine check of the moist stored seeds. A few more pots were added to my collection and I am looking forward to see these little Trilliums sending up their first leaf next year! The other seeds are still in moist storage, awaiting…

Providing moist-packed seeds it is a lot of work but BotanyCa will not be responsible of any DOD’s! See all the Moist-packed Seeds from the Shop.

(If someone knows of other species that would benefit from moist storage please let me know – Contact)

Trillium grandiflorumAnd here’s the link for the ARGS Bulletin -1991 (open as a pdf). It contains great articles like: Saga of a Woodland Garden by Harold Epstein and Hepaticas and Anemonellas by Jeanie Vesall to mention just a few…

The Beauty and the Parthenocarpy – Acer triflorum

Beauty is found in almost any maple tree, even if we are to consider only their colourful fall display. The Beast shows its ugly head especially in the case of trifoliate maples and is called parthenocarpy. As a remainder, this means production of seedless fruits (without the fertilization of ovules).

A really undesirable trait, especially for species with indehiscent fruits (samaras, nuts, achene), either if we want their seeds for consumption or to use them for propagation! This is also the explanation for the rarity of some magnificent tree species in our landscapes. Acer griseum, the best known of the trifoliate maples presents parthenocarpy to some extent but not as much as the beauty called Acer triflorum.

Acer triflorum fruit

Acer triflorum

A trifoliate, very hardy maple from Manchuria and Korea “simply an outstanding small specimen maple, lovely foliage, exquisite bark and small habit contribute to the overall landscape effectiveness…; uses for good trees are endless” (Michael Dirr)

I did a little experiment with about the 60 seeds I had and a pruning shear. By nicking the end of the extremely hard samara and then cracking it longitudinally you can extract the seeds, if any. I found 3 viable seeds and 3 aborted (stenospermocarpy) – about 5% viable seeds!

PS. One easy method to separate seedless fruits is to check if they float; the ones with seeds will go to the bottom. This is recommended for many species when we actually sow the fruits (like samaras and nuts) and it is hard to say if there are any seeds inside.
The fruit wall is so hard in Acer triflorum that it needs lots of stratification just to wear it down, so I preferred to extract the seeds (I didn’t expect to find any, but perseverance paid off :)

A spicy tree for Thanksgiving – Sassafras albidum

Celebration of the Thanksgiving Day and autumn’ brilliant colours with a portrait of a native, aromatic tree.

Sassafras albidum

Sassafras albidum

Sassafras albidum – sassafras (Fam.Lauraceae) it is a medium size tree, 15-20 m tall, with an interesting branching (candelabra-like) that can be found in the wild in southern Ontario (Canada) and widespread in the States. What I think is really cool is that it has leaves that come in three shapes! On top of this, in the fall they turn yellow, going also into red and purple depending on the year.

Sassafras albidum leaves
Sassafras albidum leaves

It flowers early in the spring and by fall the ornamental black drupes are displayed on red pedicels with the same candelabra-like ramification (aka. sympodial). All parts of the plant are spicy and aromatic.

Sassafras albidum fruits
Sassafras albidum fruits

It requires full sun locations, with no particular preference for soils and it is medium to fast growing. In the wild has the tendency to sprout forming colonies; if desired as a single trunk tree the root shoots (‘suckers’) can be removed, although it also looks nice as a multi-stemmed small tree.

Before the discovery of the North American continent sassafras was extensively used by Native Americans: anthelmintic, antidiarrheal, antirrheumatic, cold remedy, venereal, tonic and so on…. The saying goes that the European explorers, after seeing its medicinal use by the Natives, brought it back to England around 1600s. Like in many other cases, they thought they found the ‘cure-all’ plant. Although not quite so, the sassafras oil was widely imported and employed in foods, medicinal products, cosmetics (root beer, sassafras tea,  filé powder, as flavouring in candies…). But after the safrol, the essential component of sassafras oil was recognized as a potential carcinogen around 1960’s, the use of sassafras oil was banned in the U.S.A. and later in Canada. Only the leaves which are said to contain little safrol, are still used to make a powder filé which is part of the renown Creole dish gumbo.

Rarely seen in cultivation here, although it can be propagated either by seeds, either by root cuttings. Germination is said to be best when the seeds are sown in the fall. Stratification is recommended for seeds to be sown in the spring (cold-moist for 3 months). I don’t know if the seeds are losing viability like its spicy cousin Lindera benzoin (as well in Fam. Lauraceae), but for just in case most seeds will be kept stratified, some will be stored dry, and a few sown right away as an experiment.



Digging fever

“The boy smiled and continued digging. Half an hour later, his shovel hit something solid. An hour later, he had before him a chest of Spanish gold coins. There were also precious stones, gold masks adorned with red and white feathers…” The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)

The act of digging is associated with feelings of expectation, anticipation, validation, lost, renewal…and so on. Finding treasures of any kind is always linked to digging and a feverish rush that few can resist.

My recent digging brought out precious fat gold nuggets aka. Corydalis solida bulbs from underneath a clump of Hakonechloa grass and teardrop-shaped diamonds aka. bulblets dripping from Dicentra cuccularia rootstocks!

The much needed validation came when lifting the gorgeous Aconitum that I presented wearing the Chic hat. The shape of the tubers, globose with short stolons, confirms now the name Aconitum variegatum subsp. paniculatum.

Aconitum variegatum subsp. paniculatum tubers

Aconitum variegatum subsp. paniculatum tubers

Good luck to everyone in fall digging – there are old treasures to be found and new ones to be discovered!

Aconitum variegatum subsp. paniculatum

Aconitum variegatum subsp. paniculatum

PS. Dicentra cuccularia bulblets (in the featured image) detach easily from the short rootstock and when used for propagation instead of seeds, will ensure plants that reach the flowering size faster.