how do Aesculus seedlings grow?

hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)January 30, 2014

Out of the seed obviously, but...I know with acorns, there can be an issue where, if they've internally started to sprout, and you flip the nut over (accidentally or otherwise), you can end up with a kinked stem, because the root will start emerging the "wrong" way, then curl around and leave you with a trunk that has too sharp of a curve to "grow out" of it.

Do Aesculus do the same thing? I took my handful of A. flava nuts out of stratification, because three were sprouting radicles. One wasn't showing any sign of sprouting at all, and one, the "shell" is cracking, but no radicle has emerged. I also forget which way it faced in the container it was in in the fridge. So I am concerned as it sprouts it might do the same thing.

Some pictures I've seen online make it appear that, after a long taproot emerges, the "bud" that becomes the shoot also extends an inch or so out of the nut, then shoots upward, which might give it enough time to orient itself properly regardless, but I'm not sure that's how it actually works.

Should I just check it daily to watch the root emerge so I can catch what direction it's trying to go? Or will it matter?

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It won't matter. Pot them as soon as the root comes and the shoot will sense which way is up. The shoot comes after the root, so there is time to pot them now and the shoot will adapt to the new way up as it likely hasn't started yet. A tree can recover from quite a large crook in the stem, think rodents turning over spouted nuts in the woods. The advice you hear is about a picture perfect potted tree for sale at a small size, before it has had time to straighten out.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 8:51AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Heya Hair,

If the radicle gets to be an inch or more, clip it off at 1/4" or at the straightest place above 1/4". Then orient the radicle in any media so it's slightly tilted downward.

You may as well plant all your seeds now, as well.


    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 10:07AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

I did plant them all. Ironically, the ones farthest ahead are the smallest seeds - probably only half the size of the biggest seed (which is the one just starting to 'crack').

Will those small seeds result in noticeably smaller seedlings, or does it not make much difference once they're growing independent of the food stored in the seed?

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 12:02PM
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jimbobfeeny(5a IN)

The roots of Aesculus flava grow very fast - I've got one under lights that I'm growing right now. I found the best thing to do is let them grow to 1 inch long and re-pot them in a rootmaker pot, poking the root tip out the bottom. Keep an eye on the root - Once it turns black, pull the nut back out and re-pot it with the rootmaker cell completely filled this time. (I prefer the RM-18's for large-seeded trees like Aesculus) Plant the nut, now with an air-pruned root tip, in the center of the pot, root-wise. In about 3 days, the root will take on a knobby look, and new, fibrous roots will emerge from the knobs. About 2 days later, the seedling shoot will begin growing. Once root-pruned, Aesculus grow fairly fast! Conventionally, they spend years nursing a taproot and are very difficult to accommodate in a container. The earlier you can get the root to prune, the better. Whitcomb (inventor of the Rootmaker system) recommends the "4-inch rule", but I like to get large taprooted seeds like Aesculus and Carya when the root is 1 inch long.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 7:07AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Ok...well if the taproot on one has already just today reached the bottom of the rootmaker cell, and I did NOT air prune it shorter, should I:

A. Let it go and air prune at the approx 4" length, and just let it go from here
B. CUT the taproot at 2" or so (it is already fairly thick, maybe 1/8" at that point) and hope that works, then stick back in the pot
C. Let it air prune, then move immediately to a deeper container

    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 6:14PM
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jimbobfeeny(5a IN)

I would just let it air prune - It should still be fine. I just find that if you get the root earlier, it makes an even thicker fibrous root system. You should be fine, though.

From what I've seen in our woods, Aesculus (glabra, anyways) tends to form not a taproot, but a set of almost tuber-like sinkers with not much branching. Root pruning at that early stage (even at 4 inches) can jump you ahead by years!

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 6:52AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Thanks, jimbobfeeny.

I have two seeds that remain unsprouted - one still just has the crack in it, the other still solid. The one w/the crack is white inside w/no rot (I can see the interior through the small crack, so I assume it's good - from what I've seen, they start slowly then BAM - the taproot can grow 4" in 3 days.

However, is it possible these two seeds need more stratification? Or could they just take a bit longer to sprout?

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 9:17AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Well, the one with a crack finally sprouted, and I did the 1" rootmaker trick...I expect by tomorrow it will clear the hole in the bottom and air prune.

Of the ones that have already sprouted above ground, oddly enough, the one that has a slightly thicker, taller stem sprouted from the smaller (by quite some degree) nut. Is that odd?

This post was edited by hairmetal4ever on Tue, Feb 11, 14 at 10:12

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 8:05AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

I still have one holdout that never even popped a root. However, it's not rotted or soft, and no mold is showing, so I threw it back in the fridge, thinking maybe, for whatever reason, it needed more stratification.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 3:56PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)


That one seed I mentioned above air-pruned, I think. I hope I didn't repot it in the "full" rootmaker too early. The tip was brown/black after about a day growing out past the end of the hole. Do you think that did the trick?

BTW - one of the ones that I let air prune at the 4" length, has already send side roots out several side holes in the rootmaker pot...I'm concerned now that they'll outgrow these cells before I can put them outside! I have larger pots, but they won't really fit under the grow lights I have. It will be at LEAST mid March before it's warm enough to sit them outside at least some of the time, and I don't have a "safe" window (meaning, one that gets sufficient light that isn't in danger of being messed with by a toddler, a preschooler, or cats).

    Bookmark   February 14, 2014 at 10:23PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Here's one of them. Are they normally this red at this stage?

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 10:30PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

These things are insane! One is nearly 18" tall and probably nearing the need for repotting!

Interesting observation...two of the seedlings sprouted green from day 1. The others were red leaved until the leaves fully expanded, then they turned green.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 11:17PM
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