habitat creation | seed collection

If you want to preserve biodiversity, you can do this when collecting seeds in your local area of local gene stock.

Native plants show subtle differences within the same species, according to the area of the country in which they originate. By gathering and propagating local seed, you are helping to maintain the natural variety of native types.

Seed collection is very easy, you must of course get permission from the landowner first, then simply collect seeds that will we be appropriate site you have in mind. Perhaps to diversify a lawn for example, or to create a woodland flora in a newly established wood.

The fruits and seeds of trees vary immensely in size & shape, from those in husks (beech, hazel) and berries (holly, rowan) to others which are dry, with or without wings. Collect the seeds at the right time of year (see table below).

Methods for Seed Preparation

  1. Trees with small dry seeds: These should be stored dry in sealed container until spring - Beech or Ash.
  2. Trees with cones: The small seeds are to be found below the scales of the cones. The cones should be spread in trays and kept warm (not hot!) by a fire or over a radiator. As the cones dry, the seeds fall out, then separate them from the cones and store in a sealed container - Acorn.
  3. Trees which bear berries: These seeds are enclosed by hard coats within the flesh of the berry. The first step in treatment is to remove the flesh by maceration, which should be done as soon as possible after collection. The seeds then undergo a period of stratification (see section below), which is needed to break the seed coat - Rowan, Yew, Spindle.
  4. Nut bearing trees: These seeds are best sown immediately after collection, in a seedbed protected from squirrels and mice. If the seedbed is not ready they can be stored using the method for berries under stratification. Large quantities of Oak seeds can be stored up in Hessian sacks and hung up in a cool place, however they must not dry out, and therefore must be sprayed with occasionally cool water.

Stratification

In their natural state, seeds could remain in the ground in a state of dormancy, for anything up to several years before germinating. You can imitate this condition artificially, but the seedbed needs to be kept weed and pest free for at least a year.

For example, with berries, lay on a hard surface and crush with a block of wood until the seeds are exposed, separate the seeds from the flesh, dry, then plant in pots of damp soil after being dried for several months (depending on species - see table). Trees with nuts, you can use sandpaper to weaken the seed case so dormancy is broken quicker due to the increased light and water penetration the seed will receive.

view a list of when to collect seeds, and stratification times

View photos of seeds discussed here

Propagation

Once you have stored and stratified the seeds, you will be ready to propagate the seeds in pots of composting soil. Keep them in a warm, humid environment, such as a greenhouse or propagator and wait for the shoots to emerge, then once a few leaves and a good root system are present you can transfer them to your wildlife area.

Seedlings require daily care, and young plants frequent care during the growing season.

related links

Wildberks Tree Planting - Plan before you plant, think about the soil suitability, the spacing between the new trees, as well as tree aftercare.

Wildberks Woodland Management - What you will need to consider if you are creating a new, or diversifying an old woodland.