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Growing a Live Oak (Quercus Virginiana) from a germinating acorn.

Posted by auburnperson 8 (My Page) on
Sat, Feb 19, 11 at 0:49

You have probably heard about the poisoning of Toomer's Oaks at Auburn University. As an Auburn student, I believe in Auburn and love it and I want to do my part in ensuring the propagation of those glorious old oaks.

Today I visited the trees with a mission to find a source of propagation. I was able to recover about 65 viable acorns from the cracks between the bricks under the trees; about 57 of those have already sprung healthy tap-roots.

I am inexperienced in nursing acorns, so I was hoping someone could tell me if my methods need revising. I mixed a 12 dry-quart bag of Jiffy organic seed starter with a 10 dry-quart bag of Miracle Grow potting soil (I have been warned that the Miracle Grow is not good for germination because nitrogen/fertilizer content promotes shoot growth instead of root establishment-which I know nothing about-so now I'm worried). The M.G. claims 21% total nitrogen content, and if that measurement has anything to do with mass or volume (???), I blindly guesstimate that mix of the two bags has about 10% total nitrogen content. Is this mix suitable for promoting proper growth of these germinating live oak acorns?

Also, the acorns are planted horizontally, with about half acorn beneath the soil, and existing tap-roots are submerged in the soil (as the were when I found them). I have provided a fairly healthy initial dose of water to dampen the soil, and I plan to water them every 2-3 days as needed. I have the pots (seven 8" pots each holding eight acorns at the moment) lined up on the floor beside a southern window which will provide about 12 hours of sunlight/day (about 8 hours of direct light). The temperature in the room is a steady 70 degrees.

Thanks for your time and future help,
Chris


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Growing a Live Oak (Quercus Virginiana) from a germinating ac

  • Posted by morz8 Z8 Wa coast (My Page) on
    Sat, Feb 19, 11 at 12:19

The mix of sowing medium is probably fine, what you've done incorporating the Jiffy mix into the Miracle Grow is lighten up your end product with more peat and vermiculite.
All of the nutrients for germination and early growth are already contained in the acorn, you don't need to concern yourself with that right now.

Thoroughly wetting the sowing medium initially is good. From there, rather than on a schedule, you'll want to insure it's continuously damp, neither wet nor allowed to dry.

It sounds like you may have your acorns a little shallow -
"Stratification: Cold stratify for 30 days or until radicle emergence. (this has been done for you by mother nature and you are seeing the radicle/root in the acorns you collected) Germination: Sow seed 1 to 2 inches deep, tamp soil, keep moist, mulch seed bed." (suggestion for sowing outdoors)

There is the chance if rain has fallen since the tree incident the chemical was moved through the soil to the area from which you collected the acorns, but don't despair - it seems propagation of these trees has been in effect for quite some time. Not to say you should not be attempting to grow your own, but "Auburn University's School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences has been growing -- and selling -- baby Toomer's Corner oak trees grown from acorns from the same historic trees"...From what I'm reading they have some at different ages now - it will be years before the original trees can be replaced with the now seedlings but there steps are being taken to decontaminate the soil, reinstate them.


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RE: Growing a Live Oak (Quercus Virginiana) from a germinating ac

Thank you that was very helpful. I will add a layer of seed starter achieve the right depth and ensure proper dampness.

I do understand that a long family-tree has already been established for the Toomer's Oaks. I actually met and old green thumb who was also collecting acorns from the cracks; I didn't realize it until he started watching me curiously as I carefully pulled a brick from the sidewalk to preserve a tap root. He showed me his finds, told me about his own saplings, and offered assistance in obtaining my own. However, I've been bitten by the bug and desire to see these acorns prosper. Maybe one day I'll have one of them in my front yard, and I could tell the story to my grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. Now, that is a rather idealized goal with slim odds for success, but it's just an idea.

Thanks again.


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RE: Growing a Live Oak (Quercus Virginiana) from a germinating ac

Now I am seeing a fine white mold growing in various places in the pots. Some of the acorns have it growing on the shell where the cap used to be attached. In many places the mold is growing on a random chunk of debris in the soil.

Can I treat this with some sort of fungicide? Should I start placing them outside in the sun?


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RE: Growing a Live Oak (Quercus Virginiana) from a germinating ac

  • Posted by morz8 Z8 Wa coast (My Page) on
    Sun, Feb 20, 11 at 11:01

That's a sign of moisture and low/no air circulation across the surface. Do you have a fan you could direct on your pots a couple of times a day?

It is not an issue outside if you have a protected place where squirrels and chipmunks can't raid your pots.


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RE: Growing a Live Oak (Quercus Virginiana) from a germinating ac

Okay a fan is blowing softly at a very shallow angle across the tops of the pots. I also have neem oil extract if that is safe in this application?


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RE: Growing a Live Oak (Quercus Virginiana) from a germinating ac

Thanks for your help! Many of the acorns have managed to find new life. Currently four already have shoots that are about 1.25 inches tall. Many others have continued solid root growth and a few that were whole when I found them have recently started growing tap roots. In total,about 27 out of the original 65 are still alive. The others had suffered severe root damage or had been exposed to poison when I found them and are now clearly dead. That's about a 42% survival rate if the living continue to thrive.


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RE: Growing a Live Oak (Quercus Virginiana) from a germinating ac

  • Posted by morz8 Z8 Wa coast (My Page) on
    Thu, Mar 10, 11 at 20:09

That's great, 42% considering the circumstances...you must be pleased. I'm glad they seem to be working out for you.


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