Chestnut nut grafting experiment

Nut grafting

Small graft inserted into the nut

Beside regular grafting of scion to an established rootstock, there’s also a set of grafting techniques of germinating chestnut nuts like epicotyle grafting, inverted radicle grafting or grafting the nut directly. In this experiment, I’ve tried grafting chestnuts and red oak’s acorns. Chestnuts and oaks are related and some are claiming they can be successfully grafted together. Roots of an oak are much less prone to diseases and grow better, which makes such combination worth trying.

Seems so easy…

Small bud poking out of the sphagnum cover.

To successfully graft the nut, they first need to start germinating. Chestnuts start sprouting when their dormancy is broken after a period of cold stratification. When the sprout appear, all you need is to cut off the tip of the nut from which the sprout is growing and insert a small graft into the exposed round sprout inside the nut. It can be a bit delicate, but not too hard.

Preventing infections

Waiting for the grafts to take

To avoid contamination with molds or rot, best thing to use is sterilized moist peat moss or sphagnum moss. I used peat in the bottom of the containers and living sphagnum (which I grow myself) on top. Live sphagnum keeps the moisture well, has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. It’s not a bad idea to disinfect the tools and nuts too in the process.

Waiting for results

First roots!

I covered all the grafted nuts to preserve the moisture and expected them to take quite some time before I notice anything. Well, it didn’t take long, before they started callusing in just a day or two. In just a week or so, first roots appeared from the callus.
I did not expect the process to be that fast. It’s way faster than regular grafting, the only down-side I can think of is the fact that you get a plant that is only slightly better established than a seedling. Like with other grafting techniques, you can make a flowering plant if the scion holds the flower buds. That way, you can get pollen or female catkins to produce hybrids much faster and since the flowering plants are still small, they can easily be transported around.

Grafting chestnut to acorns

Acorn grafting

Red oak acorns have very hard shell, which makes it almost impossible to cut the tip off the way it can be done with chestnuts. I removed the shell and tried the same process, but I’ve learned that nuts didn’t hold the scion in place long enough and the growing sprout just pushed it out. Acorn grafting I tried needs some tweaking and I’m in a process of acquiring new acorns and experiment further.

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Starting bamboo seeds again

After a several years, I’ve felt an urge to start bamboo seeds again. This time, I purchased cheap bamboo seeds from Aliexpress.

Buying fakes

Sprouting bamboo grain.

I’ve ordered a bunch of different seeds and among them two bamboos – Phyllostachys pubescens ‘Moso’ and Phyllostachys aureosulcata. Since I know that Phyllostachys aureosulcata is not flowering at the moment and the seeds are named falsely, I decided to try growing the seeds and see what I can get. My initial assumption is that all the seeds are regular Moso seeds which are readily available every year.
As I received the seeds, I found out (I suspected that when placing an order) that more than half if not all the seeds were fake – they were physically completely different. At least bamboo seeds were bamboo seeds, not some kind of turf grass.

Lottery

Based on my previous experience with growing bamboo seeds, I’ve had very low expectations. Bamboo seeds lose viability quite fast and when the seeds are not properly stored, germination rate drops heavily. It happened twice with Moso seeds I’ve ordered in the past. Out of hundred of old Moso seeds, I couldn’t even get one seedling.
I thought growing ‘fake’ seeds could be a project, not only because of high uncertainty regarding the bamboo variety the seeds came from, but also the fact that the seeds might have problems with germination. I expected nothing.

It’s alive!

First of the Phyllostachys pubescens seeds sprouted

After two weeks of uncertainty, I noticed that one of the seeds started sprouting. The first one that germinated was labeled as Phyllostachys aureosulcata and it’s very pale at the moment. When compared to the seedlings I’ve grown in the past, these seem to grow somewhat slower. It’s still a bit early to draw any conclusions though. At the moment, there are 2 seedlings from each bag I recieved and I expect more to sprout in the following weeks.

Proper ID…?

A couple of days old bamboo seedling.

If (when) they grow into larger seedlings, the characteristics of bamboo should start showing up. In their second or third year, the fuzzy culms will most likely point out that all the seedlings are from Moso bamboo seeds. It is highly unlikely, but the seeds could be from another Phyllostachys. If that’s the case, the difference should be evident in 6 month or so. Let’s see how it goes.

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Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedlings – 2019 – Photo gallery

Photos, photos,…

This time, I decided to upload more photos and use less words. I think I wrote practically everything already. There’s nothing new regarding the seedlings, they upsized nicely and now grow as expected.

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Phyllostachys arcana seedlings – shooting season 2019

Early starters

First shoot on variegated seedling
First shoots started to emerge

Like each year since I’m growing the seedlings in their outdoor location, they started shooting before other bamboos. Fargesia Rufa started a week later and Phyllostachys pubescens ‘Moso’ seedling woke up 2 weeks after the seedlings.
Winter was mild and bamboos managed to get through it without much damage. Sun during the summer is much bigger threat to the variegated seedlings than winter weather. This year, we’ve experienced dry winter with little precipitation which made most of the bamboos I grow thirsty. Arcana seedlings were hit the most, since they are still growing in their raised beds with good drainage. Despite slight desiccation, seedlings kept the leaves without much visible damage. In early March first shoots started appearing on all but one seedling. By mid March the shoots started showing around all the seedlings. March 13th was their earliest shooting date so far.

Non-variegated seedling started shooting as well.

Nice upsize

Variegated seedlings showed stem variegation last year and I really hoped for a decent upsize, to make the variegation easier to notice. It seemed at first, that culm diameter won’t increase much, except on one seedling that started the first. They are growing many shoots that are around last year’s size and larger. Some should be almost twice the size. I’m sure they will look much better now. Variegated foliage is getting dense and it will finally shade out itself a bit. It needs protection from hot early summer sun, so I’ll try to help it with some additional shading as well.

First variegated seedling upsized quite a bit
First variegated seedling upsized quite a bit

Colorful shoots

Second seedlings shoot
Fast growing bamboo shoot

The shoots are still juvenile and need quite some time to start showing more mature characteristics. They all look arcana-ish, though. They also vary in colour a bit. The yellow culmed seedling has more reddish shoots, compared to all the darker ones. The two other variegated seedlings have darker shoots, but not nearly as dark as the shoots of green non-variegated plant which gets almost black. As the plants grow, the shoots started to turn a bit darker. Last year, the yellow culmed seedling pushed out only yellow shoots with a hint of red, now there’s some green on them as well.

Second seedling's shoots along the runner rhizome
Second seedling’s shoots. Nice upsize in both size and number of shoots.

The waiting game

Third seedling’s shoots

Variegated seedlings are slower to develop and it takes longer for them to mature. Last season, I could only check one of the seedlings for culm variegation, other two were too small to make a valid observation of green striping. This year, shoots on all the seedlings are thick enough and it will be interesting to finally see how they look like. It might be interesting to see if I can save the early set of yellow leaves. Last year sun scorched them before I could make a decent photo, but the bamboos looked fabulous. Sadly not for long.

First seedling upsized. Hopefully culm variegation will get more visible this year
Non-variegated seedling has dark shoots
nice upsize of variegated seedling
Nice upsize of second variegated seedling
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