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Mr. Smarty Plants - Seed germination for sugar maple (Acer saccharum)

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Saturday - December 15, 2007

From: Manhattan, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Trees
Title: Seed germination for sugar maple (Acer saccharum)
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

How can I germinate sugar maple?(step by step, please) I have some seeds but can't make them grow directly outside, so could you recommend a method which takes place inside?! I've heard something about refrigerating or freezing the seeds.

ANSWER:

The seeds of the sugar maple, Acer saccharum, require a period of cold to break the physiological dormancy of the seeds so that they will germinate. This occurs naturally if the seed falls outdoors in its native range. It experiences the winter cold and germinates in the warm spring. Not all the seeds manage to germinate, however, so the tree's strategy is to produce an overabundance of seeds to ensure that it does produce some offsprings. If you take the seeds and treat them under controlled conditions you can increase the germination success significantly. To do this, however, you need to simulate the winter cold by a process called cold stratification. So, here is the process, step by step:

1. Soak the seeds 24 to 48 hours in room temperature water.

2. Cold stratify the seeds (see instructions for cold stratification in Seed Germination Guidelines) for approximately 3 months at 1° to 8 °C (~34° to ~46° F)—the optimum temperature for germination appears to be 1° C (34° F).

3. After the stratification period, you can plant the seeds in the ground or in pots to be transplanted later to the area you choose. You can read more details under "Tips on Sowing and Seedlings" in Seed Germination Guidelines.

You can read a detailed treatise on Acer sachharum by the U. S. Forest Service.


Acer saccharum
 

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