Diana's fire method and Veltheimia seed

Mary Sue Ittner msittner@mcn.org
Thu, 29 Jan 2004 17:41:14 PST
Dear All,

A number of years ago (March 1999) Diana Chapman shared her method of 
starting seeds that were challenging (especially seeds of Australian 
plants.) She used this method on Veltheimia seeds with great success. So I 
am quoting from a couple of posts on this since she has given me permission 
to share posts of the past.

First she said,
"I have tried using my fire technique on several other genera, not because 
they would naturally experience it in their native haunts, but on the 
principle that the heat and smoke seem to exert some stimulatory 
effect.  It worked spectacularly on Veltheimia, of all things!  I had a 
batch of 100 seeds that I treated this way, and every seed germinated on 
the same day about three days after I fired them off!  It hasn't worked 
with everything, though."

When people asked her to tell about her fire technique she wrote:

"I sow the seeds as usual in a clay pot in a sterile mix (Supersoil plus 
decomposed granite), cover the seeds with a fairly thick layer of 
decomposed granite (about 1/2"), and then pile dry material on top of and 
around the pot on my driveway and set it on fire.  I usually keep adding 
material as it burns, and also after it has started burning really well I 
add some green material to make it as smoky as possible.  I try to keep it 
burning for about ten or fifteen minutes.  After the pot has cooled off I 
remove all large pieces of unburned material and
water the pot well. I have tried different dry material, such as leaves, 
grass, twigs and, when sowing Australian seeds, I add a lot of eucalyptus, 
but I'm not sure it makes much difference what you use.  It probably is a 
good idea to mix in several different materials, though.

I should add, that I have used other methods, and they haven't worked as 
well.  I've used the "Smoke Plus" papers from Kirstenbosch and used smoke 
alone from my bee smoker, and neither method has worked as well as fire 
itself.  I sowed some Australian seeds a couple of years ago, and divided 
them into four groups of the same species, using smoke water on one, smoke 
water and scarification on one, fire on one and one as a control.  The fire 
pot was spectacularly more successful than the others, and interestingly 
the pot using smoke water had the least germination!

And Cathy, I also received some seeds of yellow Veltheimias and was told 
they were more difficult to germinate, so I used the fire method, and they 
all (there were only five seeds) germinated promptly.  The reason I used 
this method on my standard Veltheimias was to try to get them to germinate 
more evenly, and it really worked.  Also, the seedlings seemed more vigorous."

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