Saturday, May 2, 2015

Saving Seeds - Leucadendron Argenteum

Leucadendron Argenteum is the proper name for this stunning plant, commonly known as the Silver Tree.  This photo shows the male tree's flower.  The Silver Tree is like other Leucadendrons in that it has male and female plants.  With some, the male and female are quite different and easy to identify, especially when it comes to the flowers.  With the Silver Tree its difficult to tell the male and female apart until they flower.  These gorgeous flowers on the male plant bloom in spring and have a lovely vanilla-like perfume.

The female flower is not as showy, but as it swells, pregnant with seeds, it becomes this stunning silvery cone.  I love using these cones as cut flowers.  They always stand out in a bouquet.  They dry well too, and can keep in a dried arrangement for years. I've written about the Silver Tree cones in more depth previously on the blog if you'd like to see more.

The function of these stunning cones is to produce the seed for the reproduction of the plant.  The cones, unless picked, are persistent on the tree.  The seeds are locked inside the cones.  Sometimes a plant will release the seeds while the cone is still attached, but often they can stay on the tree for a couple of years.  

I thought it might be interesting to show you how I collect these seeds, as it's such a lovely process to watch the cones open and shed their contents.  

I cut the cones, usually selecting ones that are not suitable as cut flowers, and let them sit inside on a windowsill.  Out of water it only takes a few days for the cones to start to open.

Soon, they are unrecognisable - almost feathery.  The cones open to reveal the tip of the silky parachutes that surround the seeds, designed to help with dispersal.

I simply pick up the cone and tip the seeds out.  The cone that is left is a beautiful structure with a central furry white mass.  The outside of the cones is silvery and velvety.

The seeds are quite large and nut-like, and a little bit hairy.

Each is surrounded by a husk with a parachute.  

The parachute/husk easily slides off the seed.

What you're left with is lots of little parcels of potential which, if stored properly, can remain viable for many years.  

If you'd like to try your hand at germinating and growing some of your own Silver Trees, I have some packets of this years freshly collected seeds for sale here at the Swallows Nest Farm online store.

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