Sunday, July 15, 2007

Gardening Tidbits Sans Nostalgia

Coontie cones making more seeds for moi.

See the grooves? That's "scarification" ... not the Halloween Steven King kind ... rhymes with "carification" (carification = your teen's need to borrow the car keys). Scarification is when you abrade or cut the seed coat of a stubborn germinator like the coontie seed above. It allows moisture to get in there and wake up that little embryo sooner. I hope that was a clear clarification of scarification vs. carification.

Yesterday, after a memorial service and seeing some good old friends, I was a little too in touch with my feelings, so today I'm back to guyness and just want to talk about gardenacious stuff.

I have an abundance of mature Coontie (Zamia sp.) plants on my property. Some were growing here when I got here, some are from seeds I collected on Rattlesnake Island, and the prettiest ones are from my Papa's old homestead, before the family finally walked off the property for the last time.

(That wasn't mushy nostalgia, just a factual statement of their origin)

Back in April, I planted a new nursery bed of coontie seeds, but this time, instead of just burying the seeds and waiting a year for them to sprout, I talked to my Dad who has a legendary green thumb just like his Dad did. (No, that's not nostalgia either ... just the facts Maam)

He told me he scarified his coontie with his Case pocket knife to speed up germination and he peeled off the orangey fruit around the seed. Turns out the orange covering is a growth inhibitor.

Some internet research agreed with his advice, but the pocket knife method seemed to slow so I fired up my dremel carving tool and gently wounded each seed before planting in the seedbed you see above.

Then I waited.

In the meantime, I experimented with planting some Pindo palm (a real palm) and Sago palm (not a real palm, but a cycad like coontie) in these buried pots. The problem with black pots in Pure Florida is they get mighty hot in our intense sun, so burying them up to their necks seems like a simple way around this.

I just did these pots a few weeks ago, so don't hold your breath.

I'll let you know when they sprout.

The cool thing is that while I was installing them next to the April scarified coontie seed bed, I accidently dug up a coontie seed.

AND (never start a sentence with "and", I learned that from Mrs. Simpson, my favorite English teacher ... still not nostalgia, just giving her credit) IT HAD ALREADY GERMINATED!!!

A 4 inch long taproot was already snaking out of the seed.

Coontie is a hot commodity in the xeriscaping world as it's native, not bothered by pests, and as tough as nails ... good American nails ... not those imported bendy kind. Coontie fears no drought.
It occurred to me a while back that with my acreage, a semigreen thumb, and a nephew that owns a huge nursery, I could be the coontie king of Florida. This could be bigger than Hoss's dung beetle business.
In other dirty news, I've got two new baby satsuma trees to plant. I haven't decided where to put them. I may just repot them in bigger pots and baby them through this winter. They're only about 2 feet tall so they may stand a better chance of surviving this winter's freezes if I give them a little headstart before planting them in the ground.
I also found some coral bean seeds I had tucked away in an old film cannister. I planted them in a seed bed this week. These were at least a year old and I did not scarify them, so we'll see how long it takes.
The last little bit of gardenesque news today is it finally rained here last night. Not a little useless sprinkle, but a tropical downpour with spectacular "yabetterunplugeverything" lightning and accompanying thunder.
This morning the frogs down at the "pond" are singing and the deer are everywhere browsing the still wet grass.
They have to eat grass now, since they finished my vegetable garden a long time ago.

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Joni said...

I loved the post about your grandparents. Gone but never forgotten!

ArtfulSub said...


I'm writing everyone on my blog-roll to gauge interest in a MEME idea I had to be called Mute Mondays. Please check-out and comment.


tai haku said...

I used to keep a little collection of cycad seedlings back when I lived in the UK (I kind of like them more than other plants; I think its their antiquity) and I have to say their germination speed really surprised me. Some would sit for ages and others would just go crazy instantly. I reckon you'll have different sized coontie coming up for a few years yet!

Rurality said...

Always knew you were the cootie king...

Oh wait, you said coontie.

Never mind. :)

OldHorsetailSnake said...

This will begin to make sense as soon as I find out what a coontie is. Do you suppose it's worth my time? Will send you a matched set of dung beetles if you answer my plea.

Floridacracker said...

Thanks, and you're right!

I'll check it out.

Tai Haku,
I like their antiquity too, and their hardiness. Here, coontie was a source of starch for flour.

I'd be careful with that "cootie" word. In the sixth grade I yelled, "Carol's got cooties!" at a girl and she came over tossed my bike in the ditch!
She seemed smaller at a distance ...

A palmy low growing cycad. Hit the google button dude.
I actually have a dung beetle trapping method I will post for you sometime.

Deb said...

I'm glad you got some rain there. And, I think you're on to something big with this coontie thing.

pissed off patricia said...

I'm lovin' this info on growing coontie from seed. We have several purchased from the local not for profit nursery. They all have cones now so should I dig into the cones for the seed or wait to see the seeds?

When we were in Sanibel we went to a native plant place there and coonties were going for thirty bucks each. I say get busy on that coontie farm, dude.

Doug Taron said...

My partner is nuts over cycads. They have taken over our entire house. About 4 years ago when we were down in the keys he got a bunch of seed from Zamia furfuracea and got it to germinate. Most of them have now joined the cycad collection. He's given a couple away, but kept all of the rest. He's never succeeded with coontie, but has only tried that species once or perhaps twice.

Floridacracker said...

If not big, at least some pocket change :)

Let the cones be until they sort of fall apart and you can see orange wedge shaped fruits spilling out.
IFAS has a good fact sheet on how to prepare the seeds and if you Google coontie germination, you'll get some other helpful sites.

$30 each! I like the sound of that!

Later this week I'll have an insect ID request for a little bee/wasp that was using my mason bee houses.
Another challenge for you, only this time I don't know the answer!

Coontie-Nut said...

I would love to see your plants.
I am trying to collect different variations of the Florida Coontie. I am interested in plants that were either wild collected or grown from seeds harvested in the wild. Futhermore I will need to know the location that the plant came from. Please check the attached link (article written by Tom Broome Cycad Society President) .
I have collected several different variations already. I keep them in seperate pots and in seperate areas so as to keep the strain pure to its individual variation. I am attempting to collect and document as many different Variations as I can before the plants are completely destroyed in the wild and the remaining plants are crossed to find the most comercialy successful hybrid. I appreciate any and all help you can give.
Thanks George in San Antonio
P.S. I can trade seeds and plants or pay for seeds whose origins are known. I also need any pictures of coontie in habitat and the general location.

Fernie said...

Hey do u sell any coontie males and females :P hahaha i know its to much but i wanna start them and see if i can grow some over here in Texas

Coontie-Nut said...

How can I reach the author of this blog? Any help would be appreciated.