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Species Bananas Discussions of all the different wild species of banana (non edible), an aspect of the hobby that deserves its own section.


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Old 08-12-2005, 01:18 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Insights on seed germination.

The article below could be applied to banana seed germination:

"Seed the Day" by: Matthew Holm (Research/Penn State, Vol. 17, no.
1 (March, 1996))

On his porch, surrounded by plants and blooms from around the world,
Norm Deno tells me how, when he retired from his chemistry
professorship about 15 years ago, he went down to the library to see
what had been written about his lifelong hobby, seed germination. He
felt -- as he says, like Darwin at the Galapagos -- that everyone in
the field had somehow gotten it completely and utterly wrong. "My only
choice," he says, "was to do the whole field over.

"The problem all plants have, that most botanists have overlooked," he
says -- and he's tested more than 6000 species of plants -- "is
keeping the seeds from germinating." My first reaction is that this
energetic, eccentric, 70-something man has his statement backwards.

But then I look at his yard and see the ease with which the
wildflowers have devoured the land, staring lawn-care in the face and
laughing. Deno's yard is a testament to many things -- the beauty of
nature, the haziness between the terms weed and flower -- but
especially to the need for a plant to disperse its seeds. "You don't
want the seeds to start growing in the follicle," Norm says, and I can
see his point -- it would be rather embarrassing (if not fatal) for
seeds to germinate before they're off the branch. Plus, he adds, they
need to wait for the right growing conditions once they hit the
ground.

Deno's approach to seed germination -- the one that turns the field on
its head -- is that seeds have chemical inhibitors to prevent
germination. No seed can grow until these blocks have been destroyed
by things like temperature changes, moisture, and sunlight. These
conditions combine in nearly infinite ways, making each plant's
germination needs different. Of course, when you know what the proper
conditions are, you can break down the barriers relatively quickly and
easily -- this is why you can plant Burpee seeds straight from the
envelope (where they have waited in dry storage for several months)
and have sprouts in a few weeks, and why you can "force" a crocus to
bloom in February by keeping the bulb in your cool, dark garage and
then moving it to a sunlit windowsill.

To test his inhibitor theory and catalogue the germination patterns of
thousands of seeds, Deno employed some of the most powerful tools of
modern science: a small, brown, dormitory-style refrigerator, moist
paper towels, and polyethylene sandwich bags. His mighty home lab
sports a 6-foot long workbench, a row of unfinished plywood shelves,
some fluorescent lamps, and miscellaneous fly-fishing tackle -- a far
cry from the gas chromatographs, mass spectrometers, ultraviolet and
infrared lights of his chemistry days at Penn State, but it's all he
needed to redefine thought about seed germination.

In less than two years, his self-published, 242-page book (printed by
Kinko's Copy Center, no less), Seed Germination Theory and Practice,
has sold more than 8,000 copies without any advertising whatsoever --
Simon and Schuster, eat your heart out. Norm gets boxloads of mail
every day, from people asking him to try out some interesting seeds,
solve a tricky germination problem in South Africa, or send them his
book. "For $20, I'll get it to you anywhere in the world,
postage-paid," he grins.

Deno unashamedly acknowledges his success in the field, accrediting it
to good science. "One of the biggest mistakes experimenters made in
the past," says Deno, "was not controlling for the fungi in the soil,"
-- hence the moist paper towels and plastic bags, which make for a
sterile, controlled environment. The fungi are significant because
they, too, can break down the chemical inhibitors. Deno tells of a
cactus that will only germinate in the presence of a fungal chemical
called a gibberellin (gibberellins, of which only 3 of 70 known types
appear to affect plants, are not well understood). "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."

This ingenious twist of natural selection demonstrates just one of the
six main ways that inhibitors are destroyed. Along with the
gibberellins go exposure to sunlight, dry storage (this works for most
seeds, including all of our grains), moist storage at 70 degrees F,
moist storage at 40 degrees F, and the puncturing of the seed coat.

This last method -- removing a physical rather than chemical block --
is the least common, used by only 5% of all species. But Deno, of
course, has some of these seeds as well -- he picks a Kentucky Coffee
Tree seed pod off the ground (his yard is littered with vegetation in
various states of growth and death, including a spectacular 150
different species in bloom -- just today) and tears it open, exposing
the smooth, dark, walnut-sized seeds that lie in a sticky, sickly
yellow paste.

"Raccoons carry these pods away, then eat the sweet stuff inside,"
Norm says, offering me a taste. I dab my fingertip in the goo, then
touch it to my tongue, where the initially sweet flavor soon fades
into a persistent sourness. As Norm warns, "Not too much -- I think
it's got toxins," I'm reminded of underripe banana.

As the raccoons take their treat home, they also disperse the seeds.
The seeds themselves, which look like they would require a few good
hours with a hammer and a tungsten-carbide drill to open, won't
germinate until heat expansion and contraction finally crack the shell
in another 5 to 10 years. "They can be viable for over 150 years,"
says Deno.

Dropping the seed and leaving it to its decades-long journey, he
ambles along the winding, rocky path through his sloping backyard.
Common and endangered plants vie for soil and sunlight in a manner
that would make a conservationist cringe. "I went to a Sierra Club
meeting," Deno says, shaking his head. "Once." At the meeting, he
recalls, the club members spoke for five minutes about the
disappearance of the lady slipper orchid, then spoke for 45 minutes
about the need to plant trees.

"Reforestation is the single worst thing for a lady slipper like the
Queen's lady slipper or the small white lady slipper," says Deno.
"Encroaching trees rob the orchids of the sunlight they require."
Under a large power line junction in Ohio, where every spring the
earth is intentionally burned free of brush and weeds, the white lady
slipper still covers acres. The snow orchis grows in the Bennett bogs
in New Jersey, Deno notes, because farmers mow the marsh in June,
allowing sun to reach the plant's ground-hugging rosettes. A rare
gentian in Centre County is found only along the roadside where the
road crews mow. "Many rare species of flowers exist only because of
man's interference," Deno says. "Without this, some of them would
probably be on their way out."

Deno's approach to conservation is realistic -- not everyone can be
responsible for saving all species simultaneously. He waves at a patch
of dry brown foliage where he has killed some flowers with Roundup,
saying, "My wife and I encourage a species to grow some years, then
cut it back other years." In his garden, everything gets its fair
turn. "If you want to preserve a species, then I think you need to set
aside an area and just concentrate on that one alone," he says. I am
reminded of the hundreds of thousands of seeds he has worked on and
the hundred or so more that await preparation later today as he tells
me, "You just have to take things one at a time."

Norman Deno, Ph.D., is professor emeritus of chemistry in the Eberly
College of Science, 139 Le Nor Dr., State College, PA 16801;
814-238-8770. Matthew Holm is a former writing intern at Research/Penn
State.
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Old 08-15-2005, 09:49 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Insights on seed germination.

Think I may get that book.
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Old 08-15-2005, 10:52 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Insights on seed germination.

JoeReal-I enjoyed your post. I have been thinking about trying something new to induce germination in dormant banana seeds. (A real pain to break sometimes.) Have you or anyone else tried using a bit of mashed banana when planting the seeds. It may just encourage fungal growth but I have noticed that when my velutina fruit fall and lay on the ground for a few days, the seeds in the fruit sprout much quicker than when they are cleaned and planted in planting mix.
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Old 08-15-2005, 10:57 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Insights on seed germination.

Make sure you add those couple of days that they were on the ground
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Old 08-16-2005, 02:21 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Insights on seed germination.

I might literally place a musa ingens seed on a ripe saba and let it rot in the cool damp ground for a week before taking out and cleaning the seeds and then try to germinate them.
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Old 08-16-2005, 07:24 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Insights on seed germination.

Very interesting. Thanks. Really gives me something to think about and I may try a few different things myself.
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Old 08-17-2005, 10:03 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Insights on seed germination.

JoeReal-It's worth a try. I have not done it yet but when things slow down at work again and I get a chance, I'm gonna give it a go. The worst that can happen is the same thing that happens when I try to plant dormant seeds in planting plugs, "Nothing". If you try it let us know what happens. It makes sense to me that there might be something in banana pulp that might help trigger the germination. When the fruit falls in the ground it the jungle, it is sitting in banana pulp.
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Old 02-07-2007, 07:28 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Insights on seed germination.

Digging this old thread up again...

It's no secret that Musa seeds still remain a mystery as to how to overcome the inhibitors to germination. Joe, I have read parts of that book. We have it at the greenhouse on campus, and I like to consult it frequently for seed germination advice. Unfortunately, there is nothing on Musa in the book.

If you do a scholarly search on Musa AND germination, or Musa AND seed, you will find quite a few relevant articles on germination. I've read articles on adjusting the medium's pH (3.7 and under greatly reduces germination), pre-sowing ultrasonic exposures and water soaks (no dramtic effect), and more. One thing I found very interesting while searching today:

I was at the library today, fooling around, and found a neat article from 1994, published in Seed Science and Technology. The title is "Studies on germination and cryopreservation Musa balbisiana seed," Bhat, 1994. In the article, several tests were done with different mediums. Three of the mediums were sterile, and one used non-sterile soil. No alternating temps were used. Interestingly, the three sterile mediums produced ZERO percent germination, while the non-sterile soil produced over 20% germination. Now, 20% is still an awfully small germination percentage. However, maybe the conventional thinking of using sterile media is flawed when it comes to Musa. It was found that microbes aid in breaking down the hard seed coat of Musa seeds. The article also stated that chipping the seed coat has been proven to be helpful! This is definitely contradictory to some of the advice I've seen just on this forum (which isn't anybody's fault, I'm just making note of that). So, how about trying this with musa seeds:

I think you guys were on the right track when you were talking about placing the seeds in a rotten banana and leaving outside.

Before soaking your seeds, get a metal file, some sandpaper, or something abrasive that will take some of the outer seed coat off. You don't want to get carried away, because if you file too far it will be fatal. You could roll the seeds in a tumbler with sand also.
Go out to your garden and get some good garden soil, preferably some fluffy stuff that looks like it would have lots of microbes in it! You could mix it with some perlite/vermiculite. Fill your containers with the wetted medium, and then soak for banana seeds for about 12 hours. Sow them about the depth of the thickness of the seed, and place them on bottom heat in a cool garage or basement. Alternate the temps to 90-100F for six-8 hours, and 50-70 (whatever the temp is in your garage/basement) for the rest of the day. The reason I was thinking of the garage, is it would allow the temps to cool into the 50-60 degree range (since your house probably isn't quite that cold!), at least during the winter and early Spring months. Provide some light, but not direct sunlight, and make sure that there is a definite photoperiod of at leat 14 hours, more like 16 hours (bananas are mostly tropical species, and day length is pretty long!).

What do you think? I know I'm going to try it! The only problems I can think of with this are dormant weed seed in the non-sterile mix (big deal...pull the weeds), and whether or not the desirable microbes existed in the soil. I'm actually considering calling up the zoo and trying to obtain some fresh monkey poop! Hey...think about it. When it comes to Musa germination, you definitely have to think outside the box. Someday, somebody will find a method that will obtain better, more consistent results than is the norm today. How about YOU?!!
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Old 02-07-2007, 10:42 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Insights on seed germination.

Bigdog - I'm really glad you brought this thread back out of the archives! there is a lot in here that i did not know and enjoyed reading. you may have inspired me to start experimenting with musa seed germination...
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Old 02-08-2007, 10:18 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Insights on seed germination.

I am waiting for my first banana seeds, M. velutina and M. helen's hybrid to be delivered. I am not getting enough seed to experiment with and have questions for the experienced germinators.

Why only nick the seed with a file? I have had the most success with my palms scraping the seed coating off of about 25% of the seed.

If I nick the seed coating should I also be germinating the seed with unsterilized compost material added to the vermiculite?

Should I be adding unsterilized compost material to the potting mix that I use after germination?

From what I have read here and elsewhere I plan to do the following to assist germination:
-Nick or scrape the seed
-Soak for 3 days
-germinate in translucent sealed plastic containers with moist vermiculite 1 seed length below the surface
-provide bottom heat 30-35 C for 16 hrs days and leave at room temp(18 C) nights
-provide insulated top cover to keep heat in.
-provide light from a wall plug 'night light'.
-remove from containers after germination and pot in 16 oz/500ml disposable glasses with 75% potting mix, 25% perlite.

Thanks in advance for your assistance.

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Old 02-08-2007, 01:06 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: Insights on seed germination.

Something also that is still a mystery of banana seeds is the differences between individual seeds. In some species, it is becoming clear that not all seeds are created equally. Even within the same bunch of fruit, with the same pollen source, there are "sets" of seeds that seem to want to germinate at specific times. For example, (not real data) 20% of the seeds may germinate within 2 weeks, 20% may germinate after one month, 20% may germinate after 3 months, 20% may germinate after 6 months, and the last 20% may germinate after 1 year. The thing is though, that sometimes you will notice that banana seeds come up in sets, like 3 may come up at the exact same time, and 3 more at another time. It is clear that there are different chemical inhibitors in some of these species that directly dictate how soon the seed is able to germinate. It is my belief that this is a brilliant mechanism to allow seeds "travel time" in order to not only have them dispersed over a wide area, but have them stay dormant for long enough to make the journey to wherever it is they are going. There is still a lot of experimentation and studying to be done regarding this subject, but there are some newly found insights that are becoming noticed.
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Old 02-08-2007, 02:41 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Unhappy Re: Insights on seed germination.

I hope someone somewhere in the USA will finally get a musa ingens to sprout and donate it for tissue culture.
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Old 02-08-2007, 04:34 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: Insights on seed germination.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffreyp View Post
I hope someone somewhere in the USA will finally get a musa ingens to sprout and donate it for tissue culture.
Eric at Leu had one, as far as I know its still alive but I havent heard any updates.

I have one ingens-like plant, it was collected in the same area as M. ingens and the about the same size, but a different either species or variety of M. ingens. When it gets big enough I will get a DNA test to see its affinity to M. ingens and maybe later on someone can TC it.
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Old 02-08-2007, 04:57 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: Insights on seed germination.

I found the theory of microbes/ non sterile soil interesting.

Has anyone tried germinating seeds directly in the ground outside? I sometimes use non-sterile soil to sprout musa-seeds. The problem is I sometimes get fungus. In a stable environment outside you will still have the microbes and fungus, but because of the naturalized eco-system in the outside soil, the fungus may not get a hold. Would be interesting if anyone tried this.

I also have success germinating musa-seeds in my little greenhouse outside. Natural fluctuations in temps I guess.

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Old 02-08-2007, 09:55 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: Insights on seed germination.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gabe15 View Post
Eric at Leu had one, as far as I know its still alive but I havent heard any updates.

I have one ingens-like plant, it was collected in the same area as M. ingens and the about the same size, but a different either species or variety of M. ingens. When it gets big enough I will get a DNA test to see its affinity to M. ingens and maybe later on someone can TC it.

Yes I spoke with Eric about it many months ago on the hardy palms and subtropicals website. Last I heard from him it was in a state of suspended animation and wasn't growing much. I'll have to get in touch with him again. I suspect it would do well is southern california. Who knows, maybe it could adapt to florida conditions?
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Old 02-08-2007, 10:37 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: Insights on seed germination.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffreyp View Post
I suspect it would do well is southern california. Who knows, maybe it could adapt to florida conditions?
I doubt it would do well at all in either location during the summer. It is a highland species and not only likes, but REQUIRES cool nights to live ( I suspect around 50-60F). During tests in Papua New Guinea, it was found that seeds would germinate at sea level, but could only stay alive if kept in air conditioned rooms at night. Also, in Trinidad, when it was grown there by Simmonds, it grew very poorly and only lived a few months in the tropical conditions before it died.
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Old 02-09-2007, 04:33 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Default Re: Insights on seed germination.

Quote:
I doubt it would do well at all in either location during the summer. It is a highland species and not only likes, but REQUIRES cool nights to live ( I suspect around 50-60F). During tests in Papua New Guinea, it was found that seeds would germinate at sea level, but could only stay alive if kept in air conditioned rooms at night. Also, in Trinidad, when it was grown there by Simmonds, it grew very poorly and only lived a few months in the tropical conditions before it died.
Perfect for western Norways summers then!

Also, people living in the mountains of the Canaries could probably grow this plant.
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Old 02-09-2007, 04:31 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Default Re: Insights on seed germination.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gabe15 View Post
I doubt it would do well at all in either location during the summer. It is a highland species and not only likes, but REQUIRES cool nights to live ( I suspect around 50-60F). During tests in Papua New Guinea, it was found that seeds would germinate at sea level, but could only stay alive if kept in air conditioned rooms at night. Also, in Trinidad, when it was grown there by Simmonds, it grew very poorly and only lived a few months in the tropical conditions before it died.


Trinidad and pau pau both have equatorial climates. It's not apples and apples comparing florida to trinidad or pau pau. Winters in central florida are around that temp. (50-60) at night and sometimes cooler. South florida low temps are 60 - low 60's at night and most of florida could be best described as sub-tropical. Someone was describing sterile vs. unsterile soil for germinating seeds. Perhaps these guys need unsterile (normal soil) to grow in to grow successfully...just a thought...
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Old 02-09-2007, 09:40 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Default Re: Insights on seed germination.

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Originally Posted by AllenF View Post
Why only nick the seed with a file? I have had the most success with my palms scraping the seed coating off of about 25% of the seed.

If I nick the seed coating should I also be germinating the seed with unsterilized compost material added to the vermiculite?

Should I be adding unsterilized compost material to the potting mix that I use after germination?
I have no experience scarifying Musa seeds. I've just read about it in a couple of scientific articles, and they reported some success with it. I imagine the more seed coat you can remove, the better. Again...I have never tried it. Interestingly, I've always seen the advice given about scarification of Musa seeds as something to the effect of "Don't do it!" It seems to be almost a universally (ok, maybe just an internet-banana-forum-wide) accepted given that you just don't do it. Given the generally poor success rates without scarification, I can't see as how it would hurt any!! I have many thousands of banana seeds to experiment with here, several hormones to experiment with, the benefit of a university's resources, and am going to try all kinds of cool stuff.

Yes to your second question, Allen. I thought that the results of this study were fairly significant, as it goes against the popular convention of using a sterile mix to start seeds in. Even more interesting and eye-opening: In the study, the seeds that had zero percent germination with the three sterile mixes used were, after many months, placed in a non-sterile medium, and well over 20 percent germination was the result!

The idea that microbes are necessary to help penetrate the thick outer seed coat is very logical when you think about it. Musa seeds are known to stay viable for at least two years in moist conditions, possibly more. Perhaps they just sit there in the wet soil and wait until the seed coat is thin enough for the embryo to penetrate it. I do know that I still have some Musa ingens seeds that I had about given up on, but now will be excavating them from their flats and trying something new.


As to your third question...don't see why you would want to do that if your seeds had already germinated, but it shouldn't hurt the seedlings as long as the mix is pretty light and you keep an eye out for fungus attacks (damping off). Keep a spray bottle with some fungicide or Hydrogen Peroxide handy.

Something else to consider: heating the seeds in very hot water (like on the stove) for a few minutes. For Mimosa pudica, it is recommended to heat them at 140F for 20 minutes prior to sowing. Don't know if it would work for Musa, but has anybody tried it?

GA3 is useless on Musa seed, by the way. In order for it to work, it needs to be able to penetrate the seed coat to get to the embryo. It can't without some help. I don't know if it would help with a weakened seed coat though.

Gabe I've noticed that behavior with Musa seeds, and with Ensete as well. I had some Ensete glaucum and E. ventricosum seeds sitting around for over a year before deciding to try and germinate them late last summer. Most popped right around the same time, but a few weeks later, 4 or 5 more came up at once. There is a thought that the chalazal mass is actually somehow keeping the embryo from germinating. There has to be some chemical inhibitor at work...or could it just be physical?

Erlend, I know of at least two people, one in zone 8a, who have stated that Musa velutina pops up like a weed everywhere in their garden. We have it in the greenhouses, and I've seen it coming up in cracks in the greenhouse floor! Eric at Leu Gardens said it is a weed there, and Musa itinerans is making a case for weed status.

Well, I have some exciting ideas to experiment with! Now, if it weren't for all of that bothersome schoolwork, I might be able to get some REAL work done!!

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Old 02-10-2007, 02:32 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Default Re: Insights on seed germination.

Thanks Big Dog;

Hot water- from the tap at about 130 F- didn't do any harm to the palm seed that I germinated so I will try it with the Musa seeds when I get them.

I think that I will pass on unsterile compost in the potting mix as I am having trouble killing the fungus on the soil of my palms.

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