Fall Is Perfect Time for Gathering and Planting Tree Seeds

Learn how to identify different species of tree seeds, and which ones are viable

October 7, 2019, 10:42 am | Billy Beck

AMES, Iowa – Fall is a great time to enjoy the outdoors, and along with the changing colors, it’s also the perfect time to gather tree seeds.

ripe hickory nuts surrounded by yellow leaves by Ervin/stock.adobe.com.From acorns to walnuts, hickory nuts and more – Iowa’s forests are steadily dropping seeds, and with a few basic steps, those same seeds can be gathered and planted.

In the September-October Acreage Living Newsletter, Billy Beck, assistant professor and extension forestry specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, explains how to determine which seeds are viable, and how to store or plant them in the future.

Although all native Iowa trees can be propagated from seed, Beck said that oaks and black walnut are some of the simplest.

Acorns and walnuts are widespread across Iowa, and ripen between September and October. Beck said that seeds should be collected from “healthy, vigorous trees soon after they fall to the ground.”

However, he said seed gatherers should avoid collecting the very first seeds, because those are more likely to be aborted individuals. Once collected, seeds should be separated from debris, and viability can be determined by placing them in a bucket of water,

“Non-viable seeds will float and should be removed, while viable seeds will sink to the bottom,” Beck said.

Both oaks and walnuts can be planted in autumn, according to Beck. However, some species such as red oak, bur oak and black walnut require a period of cold and moist conditions, before they break dormancy.

Beck began his role as forestry specialist in August, and said that trees and woodlands often hold sentimental value.

One way to preserve the value of specific trees is by gathering their seeds, and replanting. He provides additional seed-gathering tips and resources, like how to identify different seeds, in his article called “Start a Legacy This Autumn.”

Beck also is working to reach all Iowans about the value of trees and is holding several field days across the state in October. He provides updates on the ISU Extension and Outreach forestry website, and through Twitter and Instagram.


Photo credit: Ervin/stock.adobe.com

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