En EspaÑol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

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


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?


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


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

More Seeds and Seeding Questions

Bluebonnet seeds north of Chicago
March 11, 2008 - Hi My husband is originally from Texas - we now live north of Chicago. Last year he bought a whole bunch of Blue bonnet seeds from a company that said they would grow in our area... I planted enough ...
view the full question and answer

Planting times and sun for native plants from Austin
October 06, 2013 - When to plant Phacelia congesta seeds? Can Maximilian sunflowers tolerate partial shade?
view the full question and answer

Seeds of agave attenuata from San Diego CA
April 16, 2012 - After the agave attenuata bloom dried up there are seeds like thing hanging on the foxtail; do I leave it until it dies or do I chop that down. Are those seeds for propagation. The leaves of the plan...
view the full question and answer

When is the best time to plant or seed after a wildfire?
April 29, 2009 - This past week our 1 acre lake property at Possum Kingdom Lake in north Texas was scorched by a wildfire. No brush, grass or bushes remain, and we're hoping not to lose all the cedar and mesquite tr...
view the full question and answer

Propagation of Baptisia from Lancaster OH
August 24, 2012 - My Baptisia has gone to seed. When can I plant these seeds? Do they need strat? (zone 5)
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center