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Using Willow Rooting Hormones To Encourage Seed Sprouting.

 
Brian Hamalainen
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Location: Chimacum, WA Sunset Zone 5, USDA Zone 8B
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Does anyone know if the natural rooting hormones found in willow bark would help problem seeds to sprout and take root better? The one that came to mind for me was trying to start trees from peach/nectarine pits which I know are rediculously hard to get to sprout normally.

Would soaking normal seeds in a willow tea before planting increase the sprouting percentages/strengths?

I plan on trying to test these rough theories, though I'm not sure how scientific I could be about it in my kitchen/yard.
 
Charli Wilson
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I've not done very many scientific-style experiments, but I tend to water cuttings liberally with willow-water.. and annecdotally I don't have a bad survival rate! As a more scientific approach I was trying to propagate succulents- did one batch watered only with willow-water and one batch with tap water- the willow water batch did have a better success rate, but not massively so, an 18% difference in rooting-success (but I've still got lots of offshoots that might yet root in both batches, so that could change).
 
Brian Hamalainen
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Charli: That is the conventional use of willow rooting hormones. I'm trying to think outside of the box.
 
John Elliott
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Here's an interesting old article about using thiourea to break the dormancy of peach seeds. It appears the endocarp is quite protective and inhibitory, so the best thing to do is to crack them carefully and remove the seed inside. Thiourea occurs naturally in laburnum shrubs, so maybe a soak of the seeds in some laburnum tea would work.
 
Brian Hamalainen
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John: I don't think there is any Laburnum around here but that seems to suggest that my willow tea method might have merrit. Thanks!
 
Gord Baird
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Location: Victoria BC
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I am doing some testing right now with willow. I have various plants, some as straight hardwood cuttings, some with heel and each is treated a different way (Gel. IBA 0.4%, IBA 0.8%, Willow water). I cam across the following article in Deep Green Permaculture on the topic. Very good. I soak my cuttings for about two hours before planting. I should be able to compare in early spring 2014. I am doing this experiment with Fig, Siberian Ginseng, Camelia Sinensis, Mulberry, Buddalei Davidii, Elaeagnus umballata and angustifolia, and a couple other things.
http://deepgreenpermaculture.com/diy-instructions/home-made-plant-rooting-hormone-willow-water/
 
Danielle Diver
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Hey, i'd like to restart this convo if possible, if you guys are still out there and remember the results of your willow experiments? i am wanting to make some cuttings this spring and am wondering about the validity of this willow treatment.
in the mean time ill do some experiments of my own and post any interesting results.
thanks!
 
Peter Ellis
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Willow has a rooting hormone that works generally on other plants to promote root formation on cuttings. That is an established fact.
Whether or not it has any effect on seed germination I don't know, this thread is the first place I have seen that idea raised
 
Sam Hubert
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A great resource for rooting cuttings, either softwood or hardwood, layering, and starting from seed, is the book The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation by Dirr and Heuser. They go through many different species, quite a few that would be useful to permaculturists, and discuss how they get different species to root or grow from seed.
Also, the folks over at JL Hudson (an amazing seed bank! check them out if you haven't already) sell Gibberellic acid, which is probably what you're looking for to get tough seeds to germinate. I believe the active ingredient in willow that causes rooting is indole-3-butyric acid, which is different than gibberellic acid. Here's a link to their Gibberellic acid for sale and how they make it... http://www.jlhudsonseeds.net/GibberellicAcid.htm
They culture it from a certain fungus, but I'm sure you could do this at home. Also, does anybody know of any plant that contains a high proportion of gibberellic acid in its seeds? You could make a "tea" out of that and use it to help seeds sprout.
I've been thinking recently that willow water may encourage better root development, as in a deeper tap root or more surface area of root hairs in plants grown from seed but I'm not sure. Can any botanists on here answer that one?
 
Victor Johanson
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I have a friend who was trying to germinate Prunus maackii (Amur cherry) seeds. Nothing happened until he watered some germinating plums and the water ran out of the bottom of that pot and onto the cherry seeds. Then they germinated immediately. He theorizes that something hormonal was at play. I had chokecherry seeds come up thick as dog hair on a patch of decomposed grass clippings and leaves once. Lambsquarters came up there like that too, and seemed to have unnaturally vigorous growth--some were more than six feet tall. I believe the fungus that creates gibberellic acid must have been present in the substrate, since incresed germination and plant elongation are some of the effects.

Not sure what the willow water would do for germination. I'v experimented with it for rooting cuttings, but it didn't seem to make any difference for me.
 
Rez Zircon
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So maybe one could make a tea from something that germinates well (say, wheat) while it's in mid-sprout, and douse reluctant seeds with that?
 
Victor Johanson
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Rez Zircon wrote:So maybe one could make a tea from something that germinates well (say, wheat) while it's in mid-sprout, and douse reluctant seeds with that?


Sounds like a worthwhile experiment. In the case I cited, the seeds were from the same genus, though. That might be significant.
 
Rez Zircon
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Well, if it a hormone, quantity is probably more significant than source.
 
Victor Johanson
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Rez Zircon wrote:Well, if it a hormone, quantity is probably more significant than source.


Maybe. I just don't know whether hormones differ between plant classes...do you? I know that various animal hormones do affect humans, so maybe it doens't matter.
 
Rez Zircon
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And even phytoestrogens [plant estrogens] can affect humans (and dogs, and probably other animals) ... cross-compatibility of germination hormones seems very likely.

Also, "rooting hormone" is generic.

Hmm. What happens if you apply rooting hormone to a seed??
 
Victor Johanson
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Rez Zircon wrote:And even phytoestrogens [plant estrogens] can affect humans (and dogs, and probably other animals) ... cross-compatibility of germination hormones seems very likely.

Also, "rooting hormone" is generic.

Hmm. What happens if you apply rooting hormone to a seed??


That's a good point. I've read that male trout are turning transexual because of the birth control hormones flushed down toilets in women's urine. Hops contain very potent phytoestrogens, perhaps explaining the man-boobularity of many heavy beer drinkers. But I don't know what the purpose of that compound in the hops plant is; it may be a chemical that hops uses for a sexually unrelated purpose that just happens to fit the receptors in humans, like compounds in certain plastics do.
 
Rez Zircon
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I don't recall what the plant uses it for either, but the two worst offenders in Plants We Consider Food are flaxseed meal (300,000 units/kg) and soybean (100,000 units/kg) [I think that was the measure, off the top of my somewhat dented head, and I don't recall what the units were, possibly micrograms]. The next worst is 25,000 units/kg. Compare meat at 800 units/kg. Consuming soy during pregnancy is associated with urogenital defects in male infants; flaxseed meal in dog food can cause lethal birth defects in puppies.

A website that had links to all sorts of research on the topic (this was from back before the flax craze):

http://web.archive.org/web/20110812014148/http://www.soyonlineservice.co.nz/

Research has found that a sudden urge to become vegetarian in middle-aged human females is strongly associated with estrogen deficiency; presumably this is instinctive cravings making up the slack from plant sources.

As to more direct cross-species hormones, natural thyroid replacement for human use commonly comes from pigs or sheep.

[My background is biochemistry/microbiology, so it all makes sense to me...]

Anyway, now that I've thought of it, I'm going to try soaking a couple of those recalitrant rose seeds in commercial rooting hormone and see what happens!

 
Victor Johanson
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The thyroid thing is what I was thinking of when I observed that humans respond to hormones from other species. Gibberellins are plant hormones that can initiate germination, and some of those are manufactured by fungus.
 
Rez Zircon
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We're all more related than we'd like to believe... if someone accuses us of having the brains of a plant, we may have little defense.

About those Gibberellins made by fungus... occurs to me that lack of such fungi in the soil might be a cause of poor germination, if some plants depend on an external source to trigger their seeds.
 
Burra Maluca
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Victor Johanson wrote: Hops contain very potent phytoestrogens, perhaps explaining the man-boobularity of many heavy beer drinkers. But I don't know what the purpose of that compound in the hops plant is; it may be a chemical that hops uses for a sexually unrelated purpose that just happens to fit the receptors in humans, like compounds in certain plastics do.


I've heard that plants with these hormones will disrupt breeding cycles of the herbivores that graze/browse them, acting like a long-term control. I've no idea if it's true though, or just a nice idea.

Rez Zircon wrote: Research has found that a sudden urge to become vegetarian in middle-aged human females is strongly associated with estrogen deficiency; presumably this is instinctive cravings making up the slack from plant sources.


Oh *that* fits soooo nicely with what I'm experiencing right now!

I found it interesting that walnut leaves contain human progesterone - This Tree's a Lady


 
Rez Zircon
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I vaguely recall that you can get infertility in sheep from grazing on certain plants. Flaxseed meal in dog food reduces fertility by 50%. Interesting about progesterone in walnut leaves -- given that, I'd guess it can be found in a lot (maybe all) of other plants.

If you're experiencing low estrogen other than menopausal (and maybe even then), get a complete thyroid panel done (NOT just the TSH test) -- if it ain't working right, nothing else does either.
 
Burra Maluca
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As far as I know it's only been found in walnut leaves, but there are loads of nasties in walnut leaves too so it's not really a home-treatment for anything.

And yes, menopausal hormones, after decades of suffering from too much oestrogen. I'm very glad to finally having the levels drop!
 
Victor Johanson
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Rez Zircon wrote:We're all more related than we'd like to believe... if someone accuses us of having the brains of a plant, we may have little defense. :)

About those Gibberellins made by fungus... occurs to me that lack of such fungi in the soil might be a cause of poor germination, if some plants depend on an external source to trigger their seeds.


You are correct. From an interview with Norm Deno, author of Seed Germination, Theory and practice:

"Here you have this tiny seed, with a tiny speck of a root, in the middle of this huge, dry desert," he says—if the seeds germinate just anywhere, they'll surely die and the parent cactus will be left with no offspring. "What it needs, then, is a pocket of moist leaf mold," says Deno. "It drifts around and will only germinate when exposed to that gibberellin, produced in that pocket of mold, where it can get a start."

I had a pile of leaf-mold dominated compost in my front yard, and couldn't help noticing how ordinarily recalcitrant seedlings came up like hair on a dog's back, and plants there grew with astonishing vigor (another characteristic of gibberellins' effects)--lambsquarter, which usually tops out around 2 feet around here, were triple that size.
 
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