Seed Germination: dannygeheim picture (Too late to start seeds in zone 6?)
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Germination of Datura inoxia and Datura meteloides seeds
The germination of seeds of these two different desert plants is frequently a failure with amateurs, though skilled persons can germinate the seeds within 7 days. Seeds collected from the desert are less keen to germinate, while seeds from commercially cultivated plants of selective breeding are more easy to germinate. The seeds from desert plants needs a wetter soil than seeds from commercially cultivated plants. Another reason for failure is that the seeds may have been forced out of immature green seed capsules. A further reason is that the seed may be too old. The seeds can be stored in an amber glass jar with a black screw cap for up to 5 years and still germinate 100%, but seeds stored for 10 years are more likely to have a 1% germination rate and such germinating seeds are likely to die from weakness before they become seedlings unless special treatment is used to prevent loss, such as watering with seaweed solution of 1 cap full of garden commercial liquid seaweed stirred into 10 litres of water. Some varieties of 10-year-old desert glossy hard seed may still germinate 100%. I prefer desert seed because there is more variation in the plants for different climates such as very dry and hot to very humid and hot, or even temperate such as England where I live, which is what I am trying to breed by selective breeding.
Datura inoxia seeds and Datura meteloides seeds from the desert are easily germinated by scattering on top of wet top soil, or better still on top of wet leaf mold or wet peat that has been pressed down into a 4.5 litre clear polythene lunch box having a clasp-on polythene lid. The wet leaf mold or wet peat should fill the container half way up. Make up a solution of Chestnut Compound by dissolving 3 grams of the ammonia-smelling blue powder into 1 litre of cold tap water and stirr with a tablespoon to dissolve it. Apply the blue solution onto the seeds using the tablespoon until every seed has been wet with with it. Then clasp on lid and put into a temperature of 90 F to 100 F for 12 hours, and then apply the blue solution onto all of the seeds again and put back into the heat again for 12 hours with lid back on again. Keep doing this every 12 hours for 48 hours. You should have done this watering with the blue solution five times when you have completed it. You are now on your way to germination successfully.
When 48 hours are up, bring the polythene container with lid still on into daylight such as by the window and leave to cool off for 12 hours and then bring container back into heat for 12 hour, and then bring back to daylight for 12 hours. Keep doing this procedure and by the seventh day 20% to 90% of the seeds or more will have germinated and showing their white root. When the roots are about a quarter of an inch long grip the seed casing with tweezers and put the germinating seed a quarter of and inch under moist sandy soil of a 4-inch plant pot and cover with polythene clear sheet held together around the top of the plant pot with a rubber band. This is to keep moisture in. put plant pot into heat of anywhere between 80 F to 100 F and in about 2 to 4 days the first two leaves should be seen. Remove polythene clear sheet and put plant pot in daylight for seedling to grow.
Commercial cultiver seeds will germinate in about 4 days because the seed casing is more porous to water, while desert seed is glossy, harder and woody-looking and needs extra wetness to germinate. With commercial cultiver seeds you need only use wet top garden soil because the seeds easily absorb water. Leaf mold as well as peat tend to wet the desert Datura seeds very effectively and so germination is insured. The Chestnut Compound prevents damping off of germinating seeds and helps to stimulate germination because of the ammonia. If you did not use it, then the seeds would still germinate but would killed by damping off disease because the seeds are germinating on top of wet leaf mold or wet peat. Ordinary top sandy soil would not cause damping off, but germination would be a bit more difficult and slow. The wet leaf mold or wet peat simulates the desert rains when the sandy soil of the desert is very wet, which brings on germination of Datura seeds near the surface. The 12 hour periods of cooling down and exposure to daylight greatly helps germination of desert Datura seeds when returning back to the heat. Every time it is done more seeds are found germinated by the morning.
The percentage of germination within 7 days will depend on the strain. In some strains it may be only 20%, while in other strains it may be 50% or 90%, but within 14 days mosts seeds out of 100 will have germinated whatever the strain by following the above procedure. Wild desert Datura seed is not meant to germinate evenly in case of losses by night frost or unexpected lack of further rain. The first seeds that germinate within 7 days will have amongst them plants that are fast growing and suitable for outdoors in a temperate climate when there is no further night frost at the start of June. You can put the plants out in the middle of May to accustom them to outdoor conditions and harden the soft leaves, and bring in if night frost is expected. Put some slug pellets on the soil of the plant pot to prevent slugs or snails climbing up the plant pots and eating the leaves, and do the same when you finally plant out in garden soil to prevent loss of plants.
To grow Datura inoxia and Datura meteloides seedlings into healthy plants, first mix 2 volumes of top loose soil with 1 volume of agricultural sand, which is a course quartz sand. Add crushed chalk or crushed limestone powder. For a practical example use a full 12-inch pot of sand and full two 12-inch pots of top loose soil, and then add a full 3-inch pot of crushed chalk or crushed limestone powder and well mix. This is your potting compost.
The best fertilizer for growing Datura plants in the garden is made up by dissolving 10 grams of ammonium sulphate, 5 grams of potassium sulphate and 1 gram of Epsom Salts, which is magnesium sulphate, into 10 litres of cold tap water and striring until all dissolved. Also add 1 capfull of liquid seaweed into the 10 litres of fertilizer solution and stir. This formula will cause speedy growth in temperate climates such as England indoors and outside in the garden. When the seedlings are well established and showing leaf growth after the first two leaves, add about half a level teaspoon of superphosphate on top of the soil in the 4-inch seedling pots and water in with your fertilizer solution. Datura seedlings and plants must never stand in water, and so make sure that the tray of seedlings growing in the 4-inch plant pots are not standing in water. Only water from the top and make sure there is no water in the tray. Do not change the above formula or you will end up with potassium or nitrogen deficiency, which means you will not have healthy fast growth and nice green leaves indoors or outdoors. Do not increase the magnesium sulphate or you will end with potassium deficiency. You do not have to use the seaweed in the fertilizer formula, but in temperate climates it is recomended, and it also has trace elements. Growth is much improved with seaweed when used for Datura plants, as well as with other plants too. This fertilize mix is also good for developing 4-inch potted seedlings in a tray indoors near a window or green house having sun, but can not be used for too long because the seedlings will have too softer leaves because of the lack of strong light. When the seedlings are about 4 inches wide they should be put out in the Sun to harden and darken the green leaves before finally planting out in the garden soil to grow into mature plants as soon as night frost is ended.
Datura inoxia and Datura meteloides seedlings and plants grow well at 70 F and rather slowly at 50 F to 60 F. About 80 F is probably the best daytime temperature for the plant, and with night time temperatures of 60 F to 70 F for growth during the night when the leaves will turn upwards until morning. In temperate climates put the plants out in the garden soil when no further night frost are likely, such as in June in England. Make sure the garden soil where the plant is to be transplanted has sand and gravel mixed in with the soil to make it loose for the fibrous roots and tuber to grow deep into the soil, and water with the above fertilizer solution to get the plants established. A little powdered chalk and some superphophate can be added on top of the soil and watered in. Two teaspoons of powdered chalk and one teaspoon of superphophate mixed together and scattered around the soil of a plant near the plant stem and watered in with the fertilizer solution improves healthy growth.
Datura inoxia should produce seed capsules by bees alone, or it self-pollinates because the stigma is in contact with the five pollen anthers, but Datura meteloides has its stigma above the five pollen anthers and so you will have to pollinate the stigma yourself if you want to get seed capsules by bringing the pollen dust from another Datura meteloides onto the stigma. Datura meteloides has a different shaped stigma than Datura inoxia and so it is a different specie.
The desert plants of Datura inoxia and Datura meteloides produce seeds that tend to have variation in that some seedlings are slow growers and small plants, while others are fast growers and large plants. If you germinate about 200 seeds and grow them as seedlings you will soon see that some seedlings are growing fast and larger, and some are slow and are smaller plants. The faster growers tend to have white flowers and greenish stems or very pale purple stems and are best suited for temperate climates where fast growing is needed in the short cool summers of England. Desert varieties of Datura inoxia appear very dusty grey on the leaves. Ofcourse if there has been no rain in the spring then Datura plants are not found growing in the desert
Datura stramonium, which has black seed and Datura ferox which has larger black seed are ideal for growing in England outdoors, but are still frost tender and have to be put out in June. They both grow faster than Datura inoxia and Datura meteloides at a lower temperature. Datura stramonium tends to have even easy germination, but Datura ferox being a wild plant has uneven germination and requires the same germination treatment as Datura inoxia or Datura meteloides. It is a faster grower than Datura stramonium and larger. Datura metel is a cultivated medicinal plant of India, but grows wild in India on good agricultural soil. The plant is devoid of hairs on the stem and leaf and has large white trumpets like Datura inoxia, though garden plants tend to have double flowers that are purple, white or yellow. The tree daturas were at one time thought to be species, but now they are believed to be mutations that were used in ancient Mexico for religous purposes. Datura plants are subject to mutation. Datura inoxia, and especially the more common desert Datura meteloides and the large Hawk moth that pollinates it, was at one time the focus of ancient south west Indian religion of North America and Mexico before such cultures were strategically destroyed by the governments of the day.
Finally, the desert plants Datura meteloides and Datura inoxia gained a lot of interest as a result of the author Carlos Castaneda describing his experience in his first book with the plant that he thought was Datura inoxia, though Datura inoxia is not a very common desert plant in South Arizona, where he was introduced to an Indian sorcerer who instructed him in the use of probably Datura meteloides plants of the desert. Sadly, his books tend to read like emotional fiction rather than a textbook on sorcercy and Datura plants. No photographs of the desert Datura meteloides or Datura inoxia are included in his books. In some years the Datura plants are not found in the desert because there has been no rain in that year, though he fails to mention it. His books are not matter-of-fact books full of interesting knowlewdge, and there is something speculative about them as if it is fiction. This is not to say that there is no spirit of great power over Datura plants, but if I wanted to germinate Datura seeds I would find no help in his books on how to do it. Carlos Castaneda does not come over in his books as an experimental scientific person giving exact weights of seeds and root for such flying ointment that he rubbed on himself and the root infusion he drank. To simply roughly follow his example described in his first book would result in death or serious damage to the body and brain. Children are much more sensitive to Datura poisoning and are likely to die. Simply chewing three Datura inoxia seeds or Datura meteloides seeds and then swallowing is enough to cause tiredness and mild dreamy visions of scenery and people when you close your eyes. Three seeds will not harm you if you are an adult, but why depend on a drug for mystical visions? If the plants have a god over them, then merely growing should be enough to learn about the god.
If you have difficulty in obtaining Chestnut Compound, then you can make a better Chestnut Compound by dissolving 6 grams of ammonium carbonate and 1 gram of Copper sulphate into 1 litre of cold tap water. This solution has better germinating powers for Datura seeds and better powers to prevent damping off disease in germinating Datura seeds. It will even germinate very old Datura seeds.
Best luck in germinating and growing Datura species, Danny.
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