full sun gardening

Collecting tree seeds for plant propagation

souther magnolia seed pod
phoenix roebellini a.k.a. pygmy date palm

While pruning my pygmy date palm, I noticed it had seeded. Which, I thought was totally weird because, earlier this summer, I saw that the tree was a male. It had fringy inflorescences with lots of pollen on them. So, you can imagine that I was surprised when I was clipping the low hanging fronds and I saw two cones bursting with seeds.

phoenix roebellini
pygmy date palm seeds

Turns out, I was right. Pygmy date palms (a.k.a. roebellinis) are dioecious… meaning, they are either males or females. You need one of each to make babies (to pollinate flowers to make seeds). Some palms are monoecious, meaning they have both male and female parts and don’t need another plant to fertilize flowers… it can make babies by itself.

Well, I’m sure the answer is that there were both male and female plants in the same pot when I bought it. You see, I purchased this plant with multiple trunks… but really, it has to be multiple plants… of different sexes. That’s the only explanation… pretty sure trees don’t have virgin births!

I collected the seeds, removed the chaff, and put them on a plate where I removed the fleshy pulp to reveal the actual seed. If it is difficult for you, soak the seeds in water for 24-hours to soften the fruit. Clean them off completely. You may even want to scarify the seeds by nicking them with a knife.

black seeds of pygmy date palm in water. red flesh and tan seeds of the southern magnolia tree.

In nature, this process is usually done by the digestive tracts of birds, squirrels and other critters. They eat the fruits and deposit the seeds in their poop. Fortunately, we have another way!

Once the flesh is removed, plant the seeds in moistened potting soil and place in a partially shaded area of the garden until the seeds sprout and grow!

magnolia and pygmy date palm seeds
magnolia and pygmy date palm seeds

During the same time, I also spotted cones bursting with bright red seeds on my southern magnolia tree. This tree was a gift from Joe when we first started dating fifteen years ago.

The process for seeds from this tree is a little different. After removing the flesh, I put the seeds in a baggy with slightly moistened potting soil. It needs to “stratify” in the cold for three months. Label the baggy with the date when you need to remove them from the fridge. After that, plant the seeds in moist potting soil just as the roebellinis were planted. Leave them out in a dappled sun area until they are hardened off and large enough to keep out in full sun.

southern magnolia seeds cleaned and placed in baggy in slightly damp potting soil for refrigeration until 12/24

I’ll keep you posted on the progress of seedlings of both trees.

Until then, happy gardening!

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