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Growing Acanthostachys strobilacea from seed

Growing Acanthostachys strobilacea from seed

Acanthostachys strobilacea

Basic plant info

Acanthostachys strobilacea is a tropical plant from the bromeliads family that natively grows in south America. In nature it grows as an epiphyte like other bromeliads. It has a drooping look which makes it suitable for hanging baskets or positions on the shelves. It needs quite a lot of light and tolerates drought. The best option to kill it is by overwatering. Especially during the winter when it grows much slower. Its colorful inflorescent resemble tiny pineapple.

Collecting seeds

When the flower is pollinated (it can be self pollinated), small fruits start to develop. As the inflorescent loses vivid color and turns dark brown, fruits are most likely ripe and seeds fully developed. At the beginning, they contain a lot of moisture and can eventually dry out. The fruit contains sticky substance and the seeds tend to stick to your fingers when you squeeze them out of the fruit. You can easily wash them, or use water to dilute the gluey substance when collecting the seeds. The seeds and the fruits have a really pleasant fragrance, I’m not sure about the flavor though. I’m not keen on experimenting with possibly poisonous fruit. 🙂

Sowing the seeds

Like most of the tropical and subtropical plants, you should sow the seeds as soon as you collect them. They don’t need dormancy of any kind and lose viability quickly. I started germinating the seeds immediately. The seeds sprouted in only one week with extremely high germination rate. Acanthostachys strobilacea needs very porous and easily draining substrate, just as any other Bromeliaceae epiphytes. To make the appropriate substrate, I mixed peat, substantial amount of perlite and a bit of compost, compacted the mix lightly and placed the seeds on top. I covered the seeds with a millimeter of silica sand to keep the seeds evenly moist. I misted the surface daily just to make sure the top layer didn’t dry out.

<i>Acanthostachys strobilacea</i>
Seeds have sprouted and tiny plantlets emerged in about a week

Seedlings

It only took a week for the seeds to start germinating. The seeds are decent sized, so they should start growing vigorously from the start. Since the germination rate was high, they were starting off already a bit congested. When the seedlings get large enough to be picked up using your fingers, at 3 or 4 leaf stage, it’s easy to separate them and plant them individually into easy draining substrate. Since bromeliads are susceptible to root rot if water doesn’t drain well enough, they should be planted into smaller sized pots first and gradually up-potted. Terra-cotta pots are much safer option than plastic containers.

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Unknown bamboo seeds: part 2

Unknown bamboo seeds: part 2

Growing bamboo seedlings again

I already started a post about growing bamboo seeds again this winter. Among many seeds I ordered online from a Chinese vendor on Aliexpress, I decided to try their bamboo seeds as well. Later I found that most of the received seeds were fake. Instead of stuff I ordered, I received all kind of weeds – perhaps I’ll write about growing those one day as well.

Spectabilis seedling on the left, Moso on the right

Bamboo seeds were true Phyllostachys seeds, the puzzle remains, though, their true ID. I ordered Phyllostachys pubescens ‘Moso’ and Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’ seeds. First one is readily available all the time, so it’s most likely correct, but the second one doesn’t flower at the moment which means it’s most likely fake. I assume that both seed packs had Moso seeds in them.

LED grow lights

Like all my latest seedlings, I’ve used full spectrum LED grow lights which proved to work very well, especially with Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedlings. In the beginning, seedlings were slow to start and I expected that to happen with Moso seedlings. None of Moso seedlings I’ve tried growing could compete with other bamboo seedlings, they seem to be delicate and resent everything.

Darker green leaves of Moso seedlings. Newest leaves show nutrient deficiency

Later I noticed that grow lights don’t work as efficient as my previous LED chips. Other plants were also less vigorous, Drosera carnivores didn’t color-up as much as they could. Bamboo seedlings have a bit longer internodes than I remember which could be result of lower light intensity.

Yellow-ish colored seedlings

Some of the seedlings came out with some pigmentation issues. Affected seedlings were not completely albinic, yet, they were yellow or very pale green. Their leaves were delicate and didn’t stay alive long, they just shriveled and dried out. Lack of proper pigmentation resulted in extremely slow growth and much slower shooting cycle. To delay leaf loss of yellow leaved seedlings, I placed the seedlings further away from the light source and shaded them behind other plants.

The strange thing is, the seeds from both packs had different numbers of yellow seedlings. Moso pack hardly had any, while most of the Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’ wannabe seeds were sickly and yellow. Perhaps the seeds are not the same after all!

Small and pale seedlings. Larger darker green seedlings look crappy due to low light levels

Too early to ID

Seedlings are much larger now and they do well, especially considering they were neglected so far. Shoots of seedlings from both seed packs look like the Moso seedlings I’ve grown in the past. So far, they were not properly fed to show the nicely colored purple oral setae, I’ll see if they do color-up when I plant them separately. With a lot of imagination, tiny culms do seed to be a bit fuzzy, but it’s way too early to tell.

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Chestnut nut grafting experiment

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

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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