Then, out of nowhere, our own WoodDragon contacted me asking if I wanted in on a whole bunch of seeds from a reputable source. This source said that they have 8-10% success and that they've found this rate to be consistent with 5 year old seeds. I said "What the hell? Why not?!" and a few weeks later I had a packet of 100 Boswellia sacra seed. Woodie bought "Cultivation of Boswellia: Sacred Trees of Frankincense" by Jason Eslamieh and graciously transcribed some of the seed germination info for me. With the help of this book and WoodDragon's Australia specific interpretations, I came up with a good soil mix and germination method.
WoodDragon: Thanks heaps, buddy. You're a good guy.
Anyway. Here we go.
Here are the notes from WoodDragon:
The germination mix is:
- 20% organic (Eslamieh recommends a sterilised (commercial?) mulch without water crystals or fertiliser)
- 80% well-draining mix of equal parts of:
1) 'solid' material such as 5-10 mm pumice (good luck finding that!), expanded clay balls (the local hydro will have Hydroton or similar), or decomposed granite (local landscaping centre)
2) perlite (nursery or hydro)
I'm gambling and playing with my own mix. I'll be using about 10% crushed/dusted limestone, 10% crushed/decomposed granite, 20% expanded clay balls, 20% perlite, 20% arena/propagating sand, and 20% premium mulch or seedling coir. At least, I'll see what it's like - I might vary until it feels 'right'!
A few notes:
- The limestone and granite are sieved/washed to remove most of the fines/dust, and pebbles bigger than about 15 mm.
- Eslamieh says that peat can be used as the organic phase, but that a mix with it has to be changed once a year in case it starts to rot.
The seeds are sown into this, top-dressed with 5-6 mm screened pumice (I'm going to use a layer of perlite), and "watered thoroughly". I am going to soak the seeds first for an hour in tepid rainwater, and then sow, water, and drain well for an hour or so...
Eslamieh says incubate at 27 C, and at 80% humidity...
Eslamieh uses a 150-200 mm plastic "bulb" pot for 100 seeds, which seems crowded but he has a picture proving it. It works for B. sacra because of the poor germination rate...
Apparently is takes a few days to a few weeks for germination. After this, the big thing is lots of sunlight or good artificial light. Remove the cover after germination so that humidity decreases, and avoid water directly on the seedlings. Allow the mix to become almost dry (about a week, apparently) before watering again, and water from the sides so that the seedlings' leaves aren't soaked...
After a year they are potted up, with the same mix but with 30-50% organics.
Based on this I used some of my favourite coarse sand mix: Nepean River Sand.
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This stuff is dusty, so I washed it carefully.
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I got myself a 20cm plastic pot and trimmed it to make it shallower.
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Then I got some good bulk organic veggie garden soil mix. It has no ferts or water-retention agents in it. It's also quite sandy, as you can see here.
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I mixed the Nepean River Sand mix with perlite at a ratio of about 50/50, and added the soil mix (from which I discarded the bigger sticks and rough bits). The final mix was about 20% soil mix, 40% perlite and 40% river sand.
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Here are the seeds. They're diamond-shaped and quite papery and not quite as red as they appear in this photo. They're about ~3mm long.
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I placed the pot with seeds sprinkled evenly on top, covered in a light layer of perlite, on top of my DIY heat mat (100W aquarium heater siliconed into a hole in the side of a large cake tupperware box). The pot is in front of a large north facing window with opened shutters stopping direct sunlight. The temperature has been fluctuating between 22 degrees in the night and 32 degrees during the day.
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I covered the whole pot with a DIY dome with humidity regulated with foil over the top opening. I misted lightly every 3 days.
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Six days later (today) I awoke to one of these.
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Throughout the day, 2 more of these guys showed some sort of life.
It's early days still, I know, but I thought I'd throw this up and keep you all informed as they progress. Hope the rest of you attempting this fickle beast get something out of these notes.