News article

Seed cleaning

A few people have been asking how to prepare seed for sowing and it’s an operation that mainly goes on behind closed doors. There are a few steps that lead to the sowing and the link to our seed page doesn’t go into too much detail

So, I thought I’d explain the detail in relation to a specific species – patē or seven finger (Shefflera digitata). Patē is a common tree species often found under the canopy of native forest in Otatara and Southland, or on the edges of forest. The technique for cleaning the seed is the same for all the fruit covered seeds like Coprosma, cabbage tree etc and it helps to separate the often tiny seeds inside the fruity cover. That fruity cover (often bright colours) is to attract birds to eat the seeds, which are then distributed (with their own fertiliser) throughout the forest and beyond. It’s the natural way for such seeds to get distributed far and wide. Loss of birds means lessening of the ability of plants to distribute their seeds, so birds and plants need each-other. Photographs below show the cleaning process.

After collecting the ripe patē seeds (generally the seeds turn from hard and green to fleshy, soft and coloured – in the case of patē white and purple) they are removed from the stalks. Then the seeds are ground in a sieve under running water. If you squash a single fruit (like patē or cabbage tree) you often find it contains many more than one seed (a Coprosma fruit always contains two white seeds).

After separating the tiny seeds run water into the seeds, let them settle to the bottom and pour off the water, the seeds stay at the bottom and the fruity residue floats off. Then tip the seeds onto kitchen towel and leave to dry and separate. Rub them off the paper towel into a container and sow onto the surface of seed tray containing potting or seed raising mix and cover with more mix or pea gravel (link previous article). You will see that from just one stalk of pate fruit we get hundreds of seeds (and hopefully seedlings) and hopefully many seedlings and eventually plants.

While I have been sowing seeds, Linda has been starting the cuttings. Like seed preparation it is a time-consuming process. The cuttings in the photos took over 4 hours to prepare, but it is a good skill to have – a quick guide at the following link

Happy propagating!