Australian Plants online
Index   Back Issues   ANPSA Home

The Patient Propagator

Stewart Gemmell

I've been propagating native plants from seed for several years now. The initial impetus was to save money, but I quickly found that it is not only personally satisfying, but it also permits me to grow plants that are rarely available from commercial nurseries. Currently I'm going through another Fabaceae (Pea family) phase. The Pea family is a good starting point for propagation from seed because the seeds are relatively easy to collect; they germinate readily (with boiling water treatment) and are reasonably reliable growers. Some of the species that I have recently germinated are Daviesia alata, Daviesia squarrosa, Mirbelia rubiifolia and Kennedia prostrata. Try finding the first 3 at your local native nursery!

According to Murray Ralph in 'Growing Australian Native Plants from Seed' around 30-40% of native species will be easy to grow from seed without any treatment, another 30 percent or so will require a specific treatment and the remaining 20-30 percent are difficult or impossible to grow from seed (ie. we don't know how mother nature does it or can't easily mimic these processes). Persoonia falls into the difficult group, and to top it off it is also difficult to grow from cutting. These factors are reflected in the prices in nurseries. A few years ago I saw Persoonia pinifolia in 250 mm pots being sold for $50 each. So I tried following Murray Ralph's advice for P. pinifolia ("remove flesh by fermenting the fruits in water for a few days then rubbing"). Unfortunately I did not get a single germination in the expected 5 week period. I got excited a while back when a seedling emerged, but it turned out to be a stray Banksia serrata. But then last month I noticed a new bit of green popping its head out. This time it looked distinctly like Persoonia pinifolia. That's a good sign, because in my experience seedling from large seeds (like Persoonia) often closely resemble the mature plants soon after germination - small seeds keep me guessing for weeks if I have lost the label!

Persoonia pinifolia - flowers and foliage    Persoonia pinifolia - fruit
Flowers, foliage and fruit of Persoonia pinifolia

Another thing about large seeds is that they can emerge from quite deep. In my case they were about 5 cm under the surface. This seedling is now doing well in a tube, and a second one has emerged. The seeds still had my original label. The date was as 07/05. Germination took almost exactly 3 years!

From Blandfordia, the newsletter of the North Shore Group of the Australian Plants Society (NSW), August 2008.

Index   Back Issues   ANPSA Home

Australian Plants online - 2008
Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants