Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Growing Castilleja affinis, Paintbrush, from seed, with host plants

Paintbrush, Castilleja affinis (and friend)

Note: This post edited to change the common name from Indian paintbrush to paintbrush. I felt a little uneasy with the name, and then a FB friend messaged me what a Native American friend had told her: "The word 'Indian' used for Native Americans is 'subtly racist'" - Also it is not used in the current Jepson manual.  Be gone all such hangovers!

I am amazed that the seeds of Castilleja affinis I gathered from an ever degrading road-cut near where I live - actually germinated. And so quickly, too! I had given them four or five weeks in the fridge - in a baggie with dampened perlite - then sowed as usual.

But - then they didn't grow much over the next couple weeks.

I read somewhere that you should put them with their host plant as soon as possible. Then after I had done a bunch of transplanting I read somewhere that you should wait for the third or fourth set of leaves to appear!  Luckily, I've still got some in the seed tray to try again later.

Castilleja is hemi-parasitic on a host plant - it puts out some special roots called haustoria that connect with host plant roots to get extra water and minerals. (Info taken from an abstract of an article I can't access.)

The info I could find was spotty - nothing I could really point you to, though this SFGate article is fairly interesting. If anybody has found a good online source of info on propagating Castilleja, please let me know and I'll update this post.

As far as what host plants to put them with, I read that lupine or a bunch grass could be used. I have both of those. Quite a few lupines got damping-off fungus in the seed tray, at least I think that's what happened, not sure actually. However, the potted up ones seem healthy though. I'll try using them in the next round with the larger Castilleja seedlings.

I looked at the photos I took near the collection point to see what the paintbrush was growing near. Some were growing near polypody ferns (Polypodium californicum).

And some near coffee ferns (Pellaea andromedifolia)

I have some polypody and coffee fern growing in the garden but not so much I could transplant any to nurse the baby Castilleja.

I also noticed some growing with Pacific pea (Lathyrus vestitus).

I do have Pacific pea (Lathyrus vestitus) seedlings in my greenhouse!

So -- the plants I've put castilleja seedlings with so far are:

  • Foothill needlegrass (Stipa lepida)
  • Pacific pea (Lathyrus vestitus)
  • Coyote mint (Monardella villosa)
All the host seedlings are grown from local wild seed, or second generation of wild in my garden.  

I gathered the coyote mint seeds not that far from where the paintbrush were growing. I read that C. affinis might grow with a number of different host plants, though it could be soil type specific and limited in other ways. So I thought I'd just try it. Do you see the tiny seedling to the right of the coyote mint seedling?

I'll definitely keep you posted on this project -- please wish the little seedlings success!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Starting Bulbs from Seed and Potting Up Seedlings - and Other Joys of Propagation!

I haven't been going at it hammer and tongs but I'm making headway with propagation of local natives for use in my garden and on our ridge top property. Here's how it's going.

Bulb seeds!

I attempted to make the mixture as specified on Far West Bulb's page. I wrote about this at length the first time I started seeds of plants that can then be propagated by bulb. If you are successful.

Very excited to be propagating Lilium pardalinum from their lovely seeds. At the bottom I'll put a picture of the flower.

Ilium pardalinum, leopard lily

Also Fritillaria affinis, which I had one good year with and then - not so much.

Fritillaria affinis, checker lily

And these are seeds of Calochortus albus. I love these. The little white bit at the end - I wonder if they are elaiosomes, a fatty morsel to attract ants so the seeds get dispersed. a bit of the thing that attracts ants - Well I don't think so. I can't see it by googling anyway. That's definitive then, right?

Calochortus albus, fairy lanterns

And Toxicoscordion fremontii. I have two which are well established and I'd love to have more.

Toxicoscordion fremontii, Fremont's star lily

Pricking out and potting up

Below are photos of Monardella villosa, coyote mint. I've potted up other seeds too, but I just have the photos of these.

Monardella villosa - I love seeing their two tone leaves - maroon underneath.

Monardella villosa freshly potted up.

Seedlings to share, and some not to share or not yet

BTW I have seedlings to share - Monardella villosa and the Heuchera micrantha below. Any local people out there want to take a chunk of a seed flat? Two square inches should get you more than you need! Let me know - you can grow them out yourself for planting later this year or early next.

Heuchera micrantha, alum root

There's a Juncus amonk us - lots actually. I'll have Juncus seedlings to share too if any locals want to get some to grow out. Probably Juncus patens.

Juncus patens, common rush

Lupinus arboreus banging on. Some of these seedlings have been wilting - damping off I think is happening - a fungus. But only in patches. I've been removing them and the rest seem very robust. I can probably not grow all of these out. They are the lavender colored one.

Lupinus arboreus, bush lupine (lavender)

Dudleya! they've stayed so small for so long! Not quite sure if D. lanceolata or D. caespitosa. Or something in between.

Dudleya lanceolata, or D. caespitosa

Castilleja affinis - from seed to seedling in 8 days!

Castilleja affinis (or something close - maybe C. foliosa). My first time to propagate this semi or semi parasitical plant. I'll pair them with other plants when I pot them up. I just noticed them today, November 5, and sowed on October 29! They are so teeny! I put them in the fridge for a month or so first. Local wild, was lucky enough to get a few seeds from a road bank that is slowly being taken over by weeds. Not so slowly now actually. 

Castilleja affinis - paintbrush. Look closely!

OK and now your reward - Lilium pardalinum, the lovely leopard lily:

Ilium pardalinum, leopard lily

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

California Native Plant Seedlings!

First my blurb and then the seedling photos - you can skip down to the photos. I won't mind!

I blogged about sowing the seeds here. This is the first follow up post.

The first leaves to pop up are the seed leaves, aka cotyledons. Different species may look similar at this stage, and the seedlings live off of the food stored in those thick, rounded leaves.

That's why you can sow seeds in pure perlite, or on blotting paper wrapped around the inside of a jar. Did you grow beans like that in primary school?

A recommended mix for germinating seeds is a third perlite, a third vermiculite, and a third peat (or sustainable peat substitute). There are no nutrients in this mix. It's designed to hold water and create space for air to circulate.

This time I've been using various combinations of perlite, sand, vermiculite, and a bit of potting soil (to avoid using peat which is not a sustainable product).

Also, I wonder if adding a bit of potting soil means the seeds can survive in the seed trays a bit longer -- until I get around to pricking them out. That's my theory anyway. I just made it up.  It's a convenient theory, I must say.

You can prick them out (transplant them into small pots) after seedlings grow their first true leaves.

Only after seedlings grow roots and true leaves do they take over the work of the cotyledons; make their own food using sunlight air, water, and other stuff in the soil.

At this point I get all overcomplicated. I put more sand in the chaparral type species' mixes and more potting soil in the woodland ones, and stuff like that. All kind of on the spur of the moment. Pay me no heed!

Glenn Keator, expert botanist and well known teacher and author, says you can just use regular old potting soil for about any kind of seedling. (I may be misquoting him in the interests of my peace of mind!) So I figure -- the specific mix may not make that much difference at first. Seedlings are little powerhouses of growth!

I try not to keep them too soggy though. Nor do I let them get too dry or hot. It's a fine balance.

Once the true leaves appear, the different species seedlings start to look more like their mommies and daddies. Or - at least you can see the family resemblance.

So this post has a photo gallery of different kinds of seedlings that have germinated in the last three weeks in my greenhouse. They are all locally native plants grown from local wild seed.

It's kind of an open air greenhouse - gives protection from wind and predators and I can put shade cloth up or down etc to control the environment.

California natives can be very easily propagated out of doors - you just need netting to protect from critters, and some protection from extremes of weather - strong sun, heavy rain, wind, frost etc.

Not everything in my greenhouse has germinated. Carex species have not. Iris has not. A few other things. I did check in Dara Emery whether they needed refrigeration ("stratification") to mimic winter before they would germinate - that seems to be mostly the shrubs. I'm growing almost all perennials.

But many things germinated within five days to two weeks. These photos are all from yesterday or today - October 19-20, 2015. I sowed them between September 24-26.

Aquilegia formosa seedlings - western columbine. Still showing only seed leaves (cotyledons). I think these were late to germinate compared to some others. They have small seeds but not that small. Shiny black pretty seeds.

Artemisia douglasiana seedlings, California mugwort, in need of pricking out! Fast growers - tiny seeds too so there goes my current theory about having to spend time growing cotyledons. I'm full of bogus theories I guess. 

Dudleya lanceolata (or possibly D. caespitosa) seedlings. Cotyledons only, it seems. 
They've been sitting around looking like this for many days now. Their seeds are so tiny, I think they must have to get food from somewhere to make seed leaves!

Epilobium canum seedlings. Two sources: one closer to home, one a little bit farther off -- as the crow flies, about a mile from here or two at most. Rodeo Gulch is its own tiny watershed, leading to Corcoran lagoon in Santa Cruz (tidbit for locals). But a bird could totally fly a seed to my place from the top of the gulch where I shamelessly collected these seeds, before the county road crew scalped the road bank. The Rodeo Gulch seedlings are bigger and have advanced more quickly than my local seedlings (shown in the row on the left). Interesting eh?

All seedlings in this tray are Heuchera micrantha seedlings, as far as I know.  But the ones from the plant I call "Big Pink" -- because the inflorescences were so marvelously large compared to the others I grew from local seed, and attractively pinker -- germinated super-enthusiastically (you can see the section behind, which is also H. micrantha is more sparsely populated.) It is possible that Big Pink is really some other kind of Heuchera, and I'll have to do a bit of keying out when they get bigger. 

Another view of "big pink" (see caption for photo above for details).
I said I wouldn't do this - and I still did it - I sowed way too many seeds! I need about two square inches out of this lot!
Although they germinated with great success rate, they have stayed small subsequently. Like the Dudleya.
Heuchera micrantha seeds are also very tiny so I think they must also have to do a bit of growing of the seed leaves before they can put out true leaves maybe? Good question for a professional propagator. Fortunately I'm going on a class this Saturday, with Town Mouse -- who happily for me is back at home!

Juncus patens seedlings, probably. There are a few Juncus species it might be but most likely it's J. patens. Jepson is going to get well used this year I can tell. Also - Another case of too many seedlings! 

Juncus xiphioides, iris leaved rush. Just a three inch pot but still - way too many seedlings! These are a wetland rush and I just grew them for curiosity - I only have so much room around my hose spigots for wetland plants! 

Lathyrus vestitis, Pacific pea. My first time to propagate this plant and I hope it will sprawl happily on the north slope below our house. Not enough seedlings!!

A veritable forest of Lupinus arboreus seedlings! Bush lupine, the lavender one not the yellow one. Again, way too many! but - would be fun to have a whole bunch growing in a massive patch in the North garden!

Lupinus bicolor seedling, a small annual lupine. Only one or two have germinated.  Maybe they prefer to germinate in early spring, being annuals.

Lupinus hirsutissimus seedling, stinging lupine. Not commonly used in gardens ;-)
You can see how hirsute it is already! Grows occasionally on our chaparral slope and this is the first time I have grown a seedling! Again, just one has germinated from a section of about I don't know 20 seeds? More? 

Monardella villosa (coyote mint) seedlings were very fast to germinate. Coyote mint is a plant I'm hoping to grow as much of as my garden will hold! It's pretty and it's a great butterfly plant. This is my first time to grow a lot from seed. A lot too much I confess.

Monardella villosa seedling close up. I have pricked a bunch of these out of the tray - maybe three square inches worth provided all the plants I can possibly use!

Mystery Asteraceae plant. I'll let you know what it is when I find out. Seeds were gathered along the edge of a shady creekside road. I pricked out another little pot full of seedlings, but they look a bit sad, so I think I'll leave these where they are happy and maybe just weed out the extras.

Stachys Bullata, hedge nettle - a kind of mint, not nettle. First time for me to grow this one too. Only a few have germinated so far.
I'm going to try sowing more seeds of the reluctant germinators in spring.

Stipa pulchra, purple needlegrass, our state grass. Another first for me as far as propagation. Couldn't believe when I found a stand of them growing close by, where I could gather them! I planted three or four to a cell. Cells are about four inches deep. I hope to plant direct from here to the ground when they're ready.

Stipa cernua, nodding needlegrass, and Stipa lepida, foothill needlegrass, both of which grow wild on my property and around the neighborhood. I've grown these for some years and their survival is patchy. I'm hoping to replace a lot of the annual Mediterranean grasses in the last large section to be worked on with bunch grasses and iris and other plantings (over time).

It's all amazing, isn't it? It's really like having new babies out there - they change day to day.

I'm not done sowing yet - but I may run out of time for some things I'd like to try. Well, time will tell.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

California Native Plant Seeds -- Propagation begins!

I've been busy starting seeds! October is a good time to start a lot of seeds, except for the winter dormant ones -- the ones you have to stick in the fridge three months to convince them winter is over! Those are better done in Feb-March. I'm so happy! Some are already germinating!

I'll write more informative posts about all the stuff I'm starting by and by. This is just a seed-fest!

With the exception of the pipe vine - all seeds are of local California natives that grow on our around our property on a ridge about 6 miles inland from Santa Cruz.

Check out seeds of Aristolochia californica, Dutchman's pipe vine, which I blogged about in my last post - bagging the seed pods worked out great!

Aristolochia californica, Dutchman's pipe vine. My first time to try growing this one from seed.

Aristolochia californica, Dutchman's pipe vine seeds are so strange!.

Aristolochia californica, Dutchman's pipe vine seed - so strange I cut it up to check if it was a seed or just a husk. Also I checked in Jepson and it seems like yup it's a seed!

Speaking of propagation, I wrote an article for the Sentinel about propagation, as in who propagates the plants for the sale, as publicity for the Santa Cruz County chapter of CNPS and the UC Santa Cruz arboretum fall plant sales, which were today!

Aquilegia formosa, western columbine. This is an older photo - I just love how shiny the seeds are.

Iris fernaldii, Fernald's iris. Don't you love the look of those seeds?

Castilleja affinis or foliosa not sure. Paintbrush. Very tricky to propagate! My first time trying.

Symphyotrichum chilensis, California aster. Hard to clean! I didn't bother too much.

A tray of different lupines. Soaked overnight - boil water and let cool for a little bit - less than a minute maybe - then pour over seeds.

A lot of Carex species - sedges. I'm totally mixed up about them and am looking forward to using Jepson when they grow up to properly ID them. Maybe some are round-fruit sedge? Carex are noted as difficult to ID so I don't feel so bad!

Juncus patens I think, common rush. Lovely rust-red tiny seeds.

A gathering mystery. I totally forget what they are. Even the CNPS face book page folk didn't have much clue. Someone said it's Asteraceae family. We'll see - it's germinating like mad already. I hope it isn't a weed!

The lovely glossy leaves of hedge nettle, Stachys bullata, which is not a nettle. It's a mint and lovely. 

Madia seeds - either M. gracilis or M. elegans, I got a bit mixed up. I love these too - they are slightly speckled. 

Epilobium canum, California fuchsia, fluffy seeds packed into their slender capsules or pods or whatever the right name is. 

And this was the first seed out the gate!! - Lupinus arboreus, lavender color.