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Mr. Smarty Plants - Propagating Silky Sophora by seed from Elmendorf TX

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Wednesday - July 24, 2013

From: Elmendorf, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Propagation, Seeds and Seeding, Shrubs
Title: Propagating Silky Sophora by seed from Elmendorf TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have some seed for the Sophora nutalliana. What is the best way to germinate this seed?

ANSWER:

This USDA Plant Profile Map for Sophora nuttalliana (Silky sophora) shows that it grows naturally in Bexar County, TX. You can follow the plant link to our webpage on this plant, but we don't have a lot of information on it. From Vascular Plants from the Gila Wilderness we found a little more information, but no propagation instructions. There are five plants, all native to Texas, all in the Fabaceae family:

Sophora nuttalliana (Silky sophora)

Sophora gypsophila (Guadalupe mountain necklacepod)

Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel)

Sophora tomentosa (Yellow necklacepod)

Styphnolobium affine (Eve's necklace) - the only one not in the Sophora genus

We looked at all of the webpages from our Native Plant Database and found no specific instructions for seed germination in any of them. So, we got creative and looked on the Internet for "propagation of fabaceae." Guess where we found it? On the Australian Native Plant Society website on the Fabaceae (pea) family. Here are the instructions they gave:

"The seed of pea-flowers is shed annually. When the seed is ripe the pods turn brown and split to release the seeds. By keeping watch on the ripening pods it is fairly easy to collect the seed before it is shed. In some cases, however, the pods are attacked by insects before the seed is fully ripe and this can result in the loss of much of the viable seed.

The seed has a hard coat which, in most cases, is impervious to water and germination will normally not occur unless some sort of pretreatment is first carried out. In nature this hard coating is designed to be broken down by the heat of a bushfire to allow the species to re-colonize burnt out areas.

"This effect can be replicated in a number of ways but, for most species, the easiest is to pour boiling water over the seeds and allow them to stand overnight. The next day any seeds which have swollen are ready for sowing and can be removed; the remainder of the seeds can be treated with boiling water again and the process repeated for as long as necessary.

Another method of pretreatment is to rub the seeds between sheets of sandpaper to reduce the thickness of the outer coating so that moisture can penetrate.

The seed usually germinates well by conventional sowing methods in seed raising mixes. Pre-germination, by sowing into a closed container containing moist vermiculite or a similar material, is also a useful method. Using this method, germination usually occurs in 1-2 weeks and when the root has reached about a centimetre or so in length, the seedling can be placed into a small pot of seed raising mix."

Since this is basically the same instruction given us on germination of the iconic Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet), also a member of the Fabaceae family, we thought it was worth repeating. Hope you speak metric and know what a centimetre is because we don't. A couple of the pictures below (all from our Image Gallery) show seed pods of the plants we have listed, and one is the seed pod from the Texas Bluebonnet.

 

From the Image Gallery


Guadalupe mountain necklacepod
Sophora gypsophila

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

Yellow necklacepod
Sophora tomentosa

Eve's necklace
Styphnolobium affine

Silky sophora
Sophora nuttalliana

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

Texas bluebonnet
Lupinus texensis

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