The Q&A Archives: Germinating Tropical tree seeds

Question: Last year I was in the Caribbean. There were these trees that had huge (>12 inch) legumous pods (quite lignified and woody) with seeds in them. They were being sold to the tourists as rattles. I picked one up from a tree outside the hotel.<br>WhenI got home, I cut open the pod, and extracted the dried seeds. They had the morphology of a bean seed. I soaked them in water and planted them in soil and put them in a warm spot. None of them germinated. As a matter of fact, it looked like they didn't even absorb any water at all. Do you think that I should somehow abrade the outer skin. I bored into the seed, and it appeared white and viable. Do you have any suggestions for germinating these seeds.?

Answer: Some seeds require a period of dormancy before they'll sprout. Others need a heat treatment or a cold treatment to get them in the mood to germinate. Still others take many months to germinate. Some seeds need light, some need darkness and some need heat to germinate. Since we don't know exactly what you're trying to germinate, we can't give specific instructions. However, you can try to scarify the seedcoat to allow moisture to penetrate. Plant the seed only as deep as twice its diameterand leave it in the potting soil until it sprouts. Keep the soil moist but not sopping wet. It could take months before you see anything - be patient and you may be rewarded with a brand new plant.

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