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Preparing seeds for germination

Some native seeds need to go through a cleaning process after they have been collected in order to promote successful germination in the future. Native grass species are one of the most common seed types that require thorough cleaning. Grass seeds are very small and covered with many thin layers of plant material that need to be removed to promote water intake through the seed.

There are various methods and machinery that can be used for seed cleaning, however, a simple method is to utilize different sized screens and sieves. This method requires placing seed/plant material on top of an appropriate size screen, while shaking it on top of a smaller screen/sieve size or flat surface. Utilizing this method will allow the small seed to fall through the top screen, while keeping all of the larger plant material on top. This will successfully separate the plant material from the seed.

Below is a picture of native grass seed/collected material getting ready for seed cleaning.

Some Long Island native seeds also need to go through a process of scarification before they can be placed in a period of cold dormancy. Scarification refers to scratching or opening of thick seed coats. 

Long Island native seeds vary in shape, size, and thickness depending on the species. Thick seed coats need mechanical, thermal, or chemical help to encourage germination, and the ability to soak up water. This process mimics how the seed would have been physically effected during the digestion process in birds and animals after the seeds have been eaten.

Below is an example of mechanical scarification of Opuntia humifusa seeds, a.k.a. Prickly Pear Cactus. The native cactus seeds are very round and thick, which makes them very difficult to scarify. Here we are using a hand held sander against a grooved bottom tray to encourage the scratching of the seed coats.

Once this process was complete, the seeds were ready to be placed in a period of cold dormancy.

There are many methods that can be done to successfully stratify seed, but at LINPI we use the refrigeration method by placing the seeds in small plastic bags filled with moist media, and let them chill, or stratify in the refrigerator for 6 weeks. Of course, all different species of seed are in their own plastic bags with their name, location and date of seed collection, and the start date of stratification written on each individual bag.

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