NPSOT-AUSTIN SEED EXCHANGE

The seed exchange provides an easy way for people to get seeds for plants that they may wish to grow themselves.  Seeds are donated by people who collect them from the plants.  Everyone who attends the meetings is welcome to take some seeds to try to grow the plants.

Seed Exchange announcements and discussion usually come through the Austin-Talk email list.  Join it here.

TAKING SEEDS

IF YOU HAVE NOT TRIED TO GROW WILD PLANTS FROM SEEDS BEFORE, you need to understand that getting the seeds to germinate can be complicated.  Some people think that because these are wild plants, you should be able to grow them by simply throwing some seeds out of the back door.  Unfortunately you are very unlikely to get plants from any of these seeds unless your start them in small individual containers.  It is true that nature distributes seeds randomly, but plants produce vast quantities of seeds and we are not able to get or store seeds in those quantities.  Nature uses many complex processes to distribute the seeds and delay germination, so a few bad seasons will not wipe out a species.  Researchers and growers have found procedures that obtain reasonable rates of germination for many of our native plants, and many of these procedures are described in the book “How to Grow Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest” by Jill Nokes.

Before you take seeds you should probably see the Nokes book for advice on that species.  Most seeds require some kind of special treatment.  If you want seeds for a plant that is relatively easy to germinate, we would suggest:  Texas mountain laurel, Mexican buckeye, red yucca, Anacacho orchid tree…  Most perennials and woody plants need to be well-established in containers before they are transplanted to the soil.  The visible portion of the plant may grow slowly while it produces a large root system (and after being transplanted most plants are likely to need some watering if they are going to survive through the first summer).

Some people ask how many seeds to take.  This depends on many things and it is a matter of judgment.  Seeds from most species are available only once a year, and we hope to continue to have each species available until we can get new seeds the next year.  (An exception is for seeds that do not remain viable for a whole year.)  How many pots do you want to have on your window sill?  Rates of germination can vary, although seeds that are larger and fresher generally tend to get better results.  If we have hundreds of seeds for a species, no one should ever take more than ten percent.  If there are only a dozen seeds left, then it would probably be better to take only two or three seeds.

We would like to hear about your successes and failures in germanating these seeds.  If the plant is not listed in Nokes, then it might be that no one has documented a technique to grow that species.  You might even discover some new procedure that others could use for a particular plant.

DONATING SEEDS

We GREATLY APPRECIATE receiving any seeds from native Texas plants.  We are also glad to have any seedlings or transplants that you might want to share, although we cannot keep them if they are not all taken at the end of the meeting.  Chapter 2 of Jill Nokes’ book has excellent information on collecting seeds.  When collecting from a wild population of plants, never take the entire seed production for the year.

When you have seeds to donate, it is very important to fill out the little form that we use to label the bags of seeds.  The plant name and approximate collection date are the most important things we need to know.  We have to keep track of dates because some seeds only remain viable for a short time.  The collection location is important because plant genetics may be adapted to the soils of a particular neighborhood or area (e.g., plants which are adapted to limestone may not survive in clay soil, and the plants that grow on one side of town often will not survive on the other side.)  It would also be nice if you know whether the seeds were from plants that had been transplanted or if the plants were a wild population.  We can look up the botanical name if you do not have it.

We have limited storage space so we cannot keep large volumes of seeds.  If people bring us more than we can keep, we will try to pass them on to other groups that grow native plants. 

Thanks to everyone for participating!

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