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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - May 19, 2013

From: Lockhart, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Propagation, Seeds and Seeding, Shrubs
Title: Scarifying seeds of evergreen sumacs from Lockhart TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Dear Smarty Plants, We would like to grow our own evergreen sumacs. Consulting Nokes book, How to Grow Native Plants on page 310, it says to scarify fresh uncleaned seeds for 30-45 minutes. On page 22, Paragraph 4, Nokes states ….”Large quantities of seeds may be scarified in a mechanical tumbler or gem polisher or,more commonly soaked in concentrated sulfuric acid.” My questions is two parts. What is concentrated sulfuric acid? Battery acid from the auto store? If not, where might a layman purchase concentrated sulfuric acid in the Austin, TX area? Also, what does one put into the tumbler with the seeds?

ANSWER:

Here is the standard propagation instruction from our webpage on Rhus virens (Evergreen sumac):

"Propagation

Propagation Material: Seeds
Description: Treated seed and root cuttings are used for increase.
Seed Treatment: Scarify fresh, uncleaned seed for 30-45 minutes.
Commercially Avail: yes"

We found a YouTube presentation on How to Speed up Seed Germination that seems to answer at least some of your questions.

From our own How-To Articles, Scarification.

From North Carolina State University: Overcoming Seed Dormancy in Trees and Shrubs.

If you just search the Internet on "scarifying seeds" you will get lots more information but nobody seems keen on the sulfuric acid bit, nor seems able to identify where to get it.

 

From the Image Gallery


Evergreen sumac
Rhus virens

Evergreen sumac
Rhus virens

Evergreen sumac
Rhus virens

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