Seed Saving in the Big Bend

November 14, 2010 § Leave a comment


It’s that time of year again. The time when the winds pick up, and the breezes start to cool our scorched backs. As the cool air sets in and the fruits have fallen, the seed pods swell with bounty. This is the time of year to collect seeds. I have been able to collect seed from late August thru early March. Trees seem to seed from Late August thru early November.

When seed collecting bring along paper bags, some gardening gloves, glass jars, and some screens and paper towel to dry the seeds once collected. A very important note of advice. Ask permission of the landowner if you may be allowed to collect seed. Ninety eight percent of Texas is privately owned, so beware if you are on someone else’s property as you might not like the outcome.

When collecting seed look for the trees or shrubs that exhibit superior quality, and look strong and healthy, as they would be the best specimens to collect from.

It is in October and November that I am able to find an abundance of the precious desert tree seeds. Often I only collect a few seeds, disperse a few, and leave the rest on the tree for its own propagation. Let me remind you, that in the heat of the desert it is very hard to start seeds. If they don’t damp off, they are eaten by rodents and birds. The few that remain, I baby until they can stand on their own, usually in a year; they have grown their own roots and are ready to move out of the house so to say.

The Desert Willow is not only a beautiful shrub like tree it is also very hardy. It has long narrow green leaves and purple to pink showy trumpet type flowers that bloom around February/March and during the intermittent rains, at times. The best time to gather these seeds in is late summer early autumn when the bean shaped light coffee colored pods start to open. It is then that I collect their angel wing seeds. It is best to separate by hand, dry on a paper towel on a screen for a few days and then store in a glass jar in the refrigerator until you are ready to plant them. The seeds like to be planted soon after they leave the safety of the pod, so just keep this in mind while collecting. If you are dispersing seed just allow the winds to carry the seeds to their new destination, and make sure to leave a few around the tree itself. Desert Willow can also be grown from root cutting, and rooting new sprout growth, but wait until May, before you do this.

The Palo Verde is another Big Bend favorite with its bright yellow flowers that waft in the March winds. Its fragrant flower captures your heart. This green thorny tree has seed pods that look like brown pea pods, with no more than usually three or four seeds inside. They look like light brown coffee beans although a bit bigger. Gather the seeds in late summer or early autumn, and check them intently as they may carry beetle larva which might not be what you are looking for in your storage container as the months go on before planting. Examine the seeds, dry on screens with paper towel and then store the seeds in a glass jar and store in the refrigerator. The Palo Verde can also be grown from new growth cutting in late April to early May.

Some other trees and shrubs you may want to look for that follow the same seed saving measures are the Acacia, and the Mesquite trees. All of these trees are assimilated to our desert climate and heat so they are a wonderful introduction to seed saving and propagation. We will talk about seed starting, and root cuttings later on in the year. For now go gather and disperse some seed-but don’t forget to ask permission first. Happy Seed Saving.

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