Seed Science

 

From Cones to Seeds

Going from cones to seeds requires a few basic steps, the first of which is drying. Once the cones begin to look dry and fan out seeds are ready to be harvested. First, the winged seeds need to be extracted from inside the cones. This is done via agitating them with a simple mechanical separation process. We use a container with small holes that the cones cannot fit through, allowing the seeds to shake out.

White spruce (Picea glauca) seed cones, winged seed and de-winged seed.

 

Shaking out the seeds using mechanical separation

After the seeds are liberated from the cones, small bits of debris and dried resin are removed. The seeds are stored in a refrigerator for long-term, ensuring they remain viable for a long time to come.

 

Recycling Containers

Instead of discarding your disposable single-use containers after consuming, why not re-purpose them for something more important? Growing trees. We have had great success using recycled coffee cups for growing many species of trees.

Germination Tests

Come and see what's growing right now! We are continuously running germination tests on seeds that we sell. After the tests are completed our team plants all seedlings outside to improve the local environment. We'd encourage you plants some trees also!

 

Hybrid pinyon pines 

The pinyon pine, common in the south-western United States, is hardy to zone 5. This means it should be able to grow in the temperate climate of southern Ontario. Our tests of the seedlings proved that germination was easy and rapid.

pinus monophylla hybrid

These trees can resist drought and prefer hot weather. The leaves are a pleasant turquoise-green colour that makes it stand out among pines. A significant trait of this species is its large and delicious seeds that are collected as a food in its native range.

The theory of hybrid vigour maintains that often crosses between two species can have favorable traits, and superior growth traits compared to either parent. This experiment is a long-term project to see how this hybrid of pinus monophylla x pinus edulis will perform in Canada.

 

Pinus armandii seedlings

These seedlings of Chinese white pine (pinus armandii) have grown indoors in recycled containers for one year now. They are ready to be moved into the greenhouse and then outdoors in full sun once the weather warms. They are slated for planting in Autumn 2019, after the end of the growing season and the seedlings have entered dormancy. This species of pine tree is known for its edible pine nuts, a delicacy.

Hybrid spruce (Picea mariana x rubens)

These hybrid spruce seeds are a cross between red spruce and black spruce. Growing now for almost a year, they are developing stems and a few side-branches. The colour is variable - between the blue-white of black spruce and the shiny red-green of red spruce. A great tree for environments in eastern Canada.

Jack pine germination
A stunning success! These pinus banksiana seeds from 2004 have great staying power. Germination rate was extremely high after only a basic pretreatment of a 24-hour water soak. This is an excellent choice for beginners or those looking to cultivate a large quantity of cold-hardy trees quickly (Jack pine can survive temperatures as low as -45°C).

 

White fir seedlings
Abies concolor is an excellent species that is native to the mountainous regions of the west. It can tolerate dry conditions, high altitudes and cold winters. A very easy to germinate seed that grows into a large tree. This species prefers full sun and well-drained soils.

 

Seedlings up close

These photos are taken at 8x zoom through an optical lens to give greater detail on the foliage of the seedlings. 

spruce zoomed

A red spruce seedling exhibits green new growth.

A white pine seedling clearly shows its stomatal bands running across the length of the leaf. When viewed under magnification, it appears as a line of small, fine white points.

Mapping

 This is our area of focus in Ontario. Within The Greenbelt we have several distinct growing zones. Explore our interactive map below.