Special thanks goes to Troon Vineyard for having the vision to support the creation of a Native Plant and Pollinator Botanical Garden on their property as part of their Biodynamic and regenerative agriculture goals. You can visit the botanical garden during tasting hours at Troon Vineyard! Feel free to pop in and check it out, and watch the garden develop as it matures, as this is only year two of this exiting project, established mostly by direct seeding of native seeds from Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds.
A few scattered showers brought some gorgeous rainbows that accented the garden for the start of the tour!
The Siskiyou Crest is a rugged, remote and spectacularly diverse mountain range straddling the border of northwestern California and southwestern Oregon. Little known, but incredibly wild and beautiful, the Siskiyou Crest is the only mountain range in the Pacific Northwest running east to west, connecting the volcanic Cascade Mountains to the Coast Range.
This vital habitat connectivity corridor extends from the sagebrush clearings and quaking aspen groves near Mount Ashland, to the fog drenched redwoods of the Smith River. From sagebrush to sea, the Siskiyou Crest is the axis for biodiversity on the West Coast and home to some of the most diverse conifer forests in the world.
In June 2019, partners Luke Ruediger and Suzie Savoie, co-owners of Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds, hiked nearly 200 miles through the wildlands of the Siskiyou Crest, starting on the Pacific Crest Trail at Interstate 5 near Siskiyou Summit on the western edge of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument above Ashland, Oregon, and ending 10 days later on the shores of the Pacific Ocean south of Crescent City, California. The journey traversed the beautiful Applegate River watershed, the headwaters of the Illinois River, the Smith River and many, many miles of the rugged Klamath River watershed.
We hope to bring you along on this visual journey across this wild and largely unknown region, through old-growth forests, lush mountain meadows, colorful rock gardens, and across the long, rugged spine of the Siskiyou Crest.
Although it’s taken us two years to put this video presentation together, it has been a labor of love, and has allowed us to share this journey with others who may never get to see it themselves, and deepen the understanding of the importance of the region.
Our route through the heart of the Siskiyous traversed two states, Oregon and California, five counties, two wilderness areas, three National Forests, including the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, the Klamath National Forest, and the Six Rivers National Forest, as well as the Smith River National Recreation Area and Redwood National Park.
With a portable solar panel for charging our phones and cameras for filming our journey we hiked through long hot days, cold, misty mornings, persistent summer downpours and windy afternoons in the high country, then dropped into a thick marine layer of fog to the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean.
Check out the film to learn more about the place we love and call home here at Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds, and see gorgeous, eye-candy photos of the incredible botanical diversity of the region!
For more information you can check out the Sagebrush to Sea: A Journey Across the Siskiyou Crestweb page or facebook page.
Come learn about native plant ecology, native plant propagation and gardening at the Troon Vineyard Native Plant Botanical Garden tour! Donations for the tour, taken on site, will benefit Pollinator Project Rogue Valley and the Siskiyou Chapter Native Plant Society of Oregon.
In December 2020 Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds installed a half-acre native plant and pollinator botanical garden at Troon Vineyard in the Applegate Valley. To date, 94 species of native plants have been established in the garden, primarily from direct seeding, with some native planting from nursery plants.
With paths and plant signs to guide you through the botanical garden, and views out towards the Applegate foothills and Grayback Mountain, the Troon Native Plant Botanical Garden provides an easy and delightful place to learn about native plants, pollinators, and a demonstration about how to incorporate more native plants into the farm and vineyard setting.
Suzie Savoie of Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds will walk tour participants through the paths of the botanical garden, providing detailed information for various species along the way, including:
Plant habitat in the wild
Plant propagation and establishment methods in the garden
Two separate tour times will accommodate up to 25 registered tour participants for each time slot.
Please bring personal items for a warm, sunny June day and an optional picnic lunch to pair with an optional wine tasting after the tour. The Troon Vineyard tasting room opens at 11am.
Troon staff are also available for farm-wide tours to see the rest of the Troon biodynamic farm and vineyard, after the Native Plant Botanical Garden tour. These 1-hour tours will start at 10:15 & 11:45.
Check out the new species we have in stock! Click on the links below for more information. Every year we add new species to our wide selection of native seed packets. We hope you enjoy these new additions we’ve added over the last month. We are thankful for the incredible, world-class botanical diversity of the Klamath-Siskiyou region that allows us to offer such a wonderful diversity of native plant seeds native to our region. Here at KSNS we are committed to helping to protect, conserve and restore native plant communities for the benefit of biodiversity and the enjoyment of future generations. As spring wildflowers start blooming across the region we look forward to another great seed collection season this summer to help increase the availability of native plant seeds for a wide range of wonderful projects and customers who care about native plants. Happy Spring!
If you live in southwest Oregon, please join us for this upcoming in-person presentation hosted by the Talent Garden Club! Suzie Savoie of Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds will be covering a wide variety of drought tolerant native plants that will help your garden be more climate resilient.
If you live in southwest Oregon you’re invited to an upcoming free presentation by Suzie Savoie of Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds at the Applegate Library in the beautiful Applegate Valley on February 23rd at 2pm.
Come learn about the incredible botanical diversity of the Siskiyou Crest region through an in-person presentation, Wildflowers of the Siskiyou Crest, given by local Applegate naturalist, Suzie Savoie. This presentation will highlight rare, threatened and endangered species, as well as common botanical beauties. Suzie is owner of the local native seed company, Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds, is Conservation Chair for the Siskiyou Chapter Native Plant Society of Oregon, and is on the Advisory Board for Pollinator Project Rogue Valley. She has lived off-grid at the base of the Red Buttes Wilderness in the Upper Applegate for 20 years. Free and open to the public. Masks are required.
Despite their eye-catching beauty and value for pollinators and birds, native thistle species have long been undervalued and underutilized in native plant gardens and habitat restoration projects. Many people either don’t know there are native thistles, and/or they have a bad association with thistles because of the numerous highly invasive species of thistles. However, native thistles are highly important components of native plant communities and play important roles in native ecosystems; therefore, appropriate native thistle species should be considered for inclusion in various native planting or seeding projects.
Nutritious thistle seeds are highly prized by birds such as the Lesser or American goldfinch. According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, “Their diet is composed almost entirely of seeds, with those of the sunflower family, particularly thistles, strongly preferred.” Birds also use the fluffy thistle chaff to line their nests.
The list of butterfly species that use native thistles for nectar is too numerous to list here. It is common to see butterflies nectaring on native thistles in the wild. Several butterfly species use native thistles as a larval host plant, including, Painted lady (Vanessa cardui), Mylitta crescent (Phyciodes mylitta), and the California crescent (Phyciodes orseis).
Hummingbirds are especially fond of thistle nectar. It is not unusual to find many hummingbirds competing for the nectar of Western thistle (Cirsium occidentale) flowers in the wild. Hummingbirds will often spend a considerable amount of time around a thistle patch, sipping nectar in between their aerial acrobatics. Additionally, native bees, pollinating flies, beetles, moths, and wasps also forage on and pollinate native thistles. Native thistles support and increase biodiversity!
Native thistles are adapted to grow in many different habitat types, from deserts to wetlands, and low elevation to high elevation. There are approximately 62 species of native thistles in the genus Cirsium in North America. For more detailed information about the ecological importance and cultivation of native thistles throughout North America, with an emphasis on species found in the eastern part of the United States, check out the Xerces Society‘s 92-page native thistles conservation guide: Native Thistles: A Conservation Practitioner’s Guide.
Although there are at least eleven or more thistle species, with many varieties, native to the Klamath-Siskiyou region, we will use the showy and beautiful red-flowered Western thistle (Cirsium occidentale) as our example of how to grow native thistles for this guide. Western thistle is native to California, Oregon and Nevada. It has many additional common names, including snowy thistle, cobweb thistle, or cobwebby thistle. There are also many varieties of the species. The common names are due to the appearance of the spines of the flowers which are laced in fibers resembling cobwebs or snow.
In the wild, Western thistle is adaptable to various soil types, but is generally found growing on poor soil with good drainage and full sun, in open grassland, chaparral, or rocky areas in various habitat types where there is little surrounding competition from other plants. It is a biennial to short-lived perennial plant that forms a rosette the first year(s), flowering the second year before producing seed and dying out. In drought years or on particularly harsh sites it may just remain a rosette for several years and take multiple years to flower. Most species in the genus Cirsium are monocarpic — they flower only one time and then die.
When in flower the height of Western thistle may vary from 1′-6′ tall. Smaller plants may just have a single stalk and flower, but larger plants may have many branches and many flowers.
Thistles are in the sunflower family (Asteraceae), with many individual flowers packed within each flower head, protected by a spiny involucre. Like a sunflower, each flower produces a single seed, and each seed head produces many seeds.
Western thistle is deer resistant and drought tolerant, making it ideal for dry areas with heavy deer pressure. That being said, as we have mentioned, native thistles are used as larval host plants by numerous butterfly species, and sometimes the caterpillars can eat a plant to the point that resembles deer browse. Native thistles have co-evolved with our pollinators and are adapted to caterpillar browse. Native thistles are never aggressive and won’t spread rapidly like their non-native and invasive relatives.
Growing Native Thistles from Seed
Western Thistle Seed Germination
The most basic rule of thumb for growing Western thistle from seed is to sow the seed outside in fall to early winter.
In the nursery setting, sow Western thistle seeds in seed trays or flats to upsize later, or directly sow into deeper containers such as tubes, deeppots, mini tree pots, or band pots etc. Thistles are fast growing in the nursery setting and have rapid root growth. Out-plant the seedlings in their first year of growth, either in early spring or fall. Use a soil mixture with good drainage, with extra perlite, vermiculite or pumice.
Our understanding of what specific cold-moist stratification requirements Western thistle seed needs has evolved over time. With years of growing Western thistle from seed, observations of seed germination patterns in the wild, and input from other growers — including people who have bought seed from us — we have come to realize that seed germination of Western thistle is quite variable.
Most sources of information suggest that native thistle seed needs “winterization” or cold-moist stratification to germinate, with a basic recommendation of 60-90 days exposure to cold-moist conditions. In the past we have always sown our seed in the fall, the seed overwintered, and we achieved seed germination in early spring. However, our recent experience has shown that fresh Western thistle seed may germinate in the fall in wet years with early fall rain. This year was one of those years! The early fall rain in the Klamath-Siskiyou region this year led to abundant germination of Western thistle seed in wild populations we visited in October-November 2021. Our own patches of Western thistle on our own land, where we are growing this species for seed increase, also had fall germinating seeds. Additionally, seed we sowed into seed trays in October were observed to be germinating in early November, showing that fall germination of Western thistle seed is possible in years with abundant fall rain and ideal conditions. This may be able to be replicated in dry years as well, with irrigation in the garden or habitat restoration seeding projects. In most years in the Klamath-Siskiyou region fall weather can be quite dry and warm, but this year was different, showing how different conditions year to year can achieve different results with seed germination.
Remember that seeds are living organisms that may not always behave in the way you expect! That’s why experimentation is at the foundation of seed germination success!
It is clear to us that fresh Western thistle seed may not have “dormancy” that needs to be overcome with cold-moist stratification; however, if the seeds are sown in early winter and conditions are too cold to germinate, the seeds will just wait in the cold-moist winter conditions to germinate when the weather warms up in early spring. It is also possible that older seed that has been stored for a year or more may become more dormant and need 60-90 days of cold-moist stratification before it can germinate.
Our basic guidelines for Western thistle seed germination are as follows:
No pretreatment is required for fresh seed. Seed germination may be improved with 30 days cold-moist stratification. Sow outside in early fall to late winter. Seeds may germinate with early fall rain if sown in early fall. Stored seed may need 60-90 days cold-moist stratification.
We love getting feedback from our customers and clients regarding their own experiences with seed germination. Sometimes people have different results than we do, which can make seed germination protocols difficult to generalize for different regions of the country. Different methods can sometimes achieve the same results and vice versa. We feel it is important, however, to provide some basic seed germination information and short protocols to get people started with their own seed germination experimentation.
James H. in Eugene, Oregon emailed us the photos above of Western thistle (Cirsium occidentale) seed he purchased from us that germinated quickly after he sowed the seed in fall 2020. We appreciated getting James’ feedback and photos! After the early fall rain this fall in the Siskiyou Mountains, our experience was the same — fall germination of Western thistle.
As you can see from the photos, James uses cages to protect his seedlings. Cages are important to prevent seed predation by birds, squirrels, mice and other small mammals. Wire cages or bird netting is an easy solution to prevent sometimes major losses of seed and/or germinates to wildlife.
Direct seeding of Western thistle also works really well. We have directly sown Western thistle seeds in many native seeding projects over the years, in various types of projects, from private land habitat restoration projects, to native plant demonstration gardens at vineyards, to upscale landscaping. We are excited to have Western thistle as part of the demonstration native plant garden we have established at Troon Vineyard in the Applegate Valley, and we hope to be sharing the results of the project this year with on-site tours and presentations.
On our own land here in the Siskiyou Mountains we have been growing Western thistle for more than fifteen years. Early on we would directly sow Western thistle seeds into burn pile sites we created after fuel reduction work in our land. We sowed Western thistle seed into sunny burn pile sites with great results. Over the years we have also done some small-scale prescribed burns and seeded Western thistle seeds into the small burn areas along with other wildflower seed, as shown in the photos above. Growing Western thistle on our own land for biodiversity, pollinator habitat and seed increase for seed sales has been a rewarding process that brings us great joy when we see butterfly caterpillars and other pollinators using the plants.
Protecting the viability of native thistle populations in the wild is important to us. Native thistles face many threats, including unwarranted eradication due to the assumption that all thistles are invasive and unwanted. We must protect our wild populations of native thistles and grow more native thistle seed in gardens and seed increase plots to help increase native thistle populations for biodiversity and the benefit of pollinators.
At the time of publishing this blog post we currently have only 18 packets of Western thistle seed remaining in our inventory for this season. We won’t have any more until next summer/fall. We can only collect a small amount of seed each year, so orders are limited to one packet per order so more people can grow these gorgeous plants! This is precious seed — plant wisely.
Native wild buckwheat species in the genus Eriogonum are iconic in the American West. Wild buckwheats have long been grown in gardens for their rugged beauty, drought tolerance, and importance for native pollinator species. Although there are currently around 250 described species of wild buckwheat in the United States, many are rare and endemic and have very restricted ranges, and it is assumed that active speciation is still occurring. Oregon has 45 Eriogonum species and California has 121 Eriogonum species, plus many, many varieties. With so many wild buckwheat species to choose from, you are sure to find one that is right for your garden or native planting project!
Wild buckwheats in the genus Eriogonum come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Seen above are tall woolly buckwheat (Eriogonum elatum) on the left, arrowleaf buckwheat (Eriogonum compositum) on the top right, and barestem buckwheat (Eriogonum nudum) on the bottom right.
The late James L. Reveal was an expert on wild buckwheats. His treatment of the genus Eriogonum in Flora of North America explained how large and complex the genus is. Here is an excerpt from Flora of North America below:
Wild buckwheat [Greek erion, wool, and gony, knee, alluding to the hairy nodes of the species first described, E. tomentosum]
James L. Reveal
“As presently circumscribed, Eriogonum is one of the larger genera in the flora area, being exceeded in numbers of species only by Carex (ca. 480), Astragalus (ca. 350), and Penstemon (ca. 250). As a native North American genus, Eriogonum (ca. 250) is second only to Penstemon. Ecologically, species of Eriogonum occur from the seashore to the highest mountains in the United States. They are among the last plants seen atop the Sierra Nevada and on the “outskirts” of Badwater in Death Valley. About one-third of the species are uncommon to rare in their distribution.”
Butterflies and bumble bee nectaring and foraging on sulphur flower buckwheat.
Wild buckwheats are considered by some to be “superplants” because of their ecological importance. The flowers are prized by numerous native pollinators, including native bees, pollinating flies, beetles, butterflies and wasps. Wild buckwheats are used by many species of butterfly as larval host plants. One study in Washington state found that the total butterfly-buckwheat larval host plant association in the state was 44. If a similar study was done in other states, the number of butterfly-buckwheat larval host plant associations would probably be astounding.
Maps from CalFlora and OregonFlora depicting the ranges of sulphur flower buckwheat in California and Oregon.
Sulphur flower buckwheat
Our information on growing wild buckwheats from seed will focus on one of the most common Eriogonum species: sulphur flower buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum). Although some species of wild buckwheat may have slightly different growing requirements than sulphur flower buckwheat, since it is such a common and widespread species throughout the American West, it is familiar to many people and provides a good example for how to successfully grow wild buckwheat from seed.
Sulphur flower buckwheat grows abundantly in hot, dry, open, and rocky places from low to high elevation throughout the western United States. Due in part to its large distribution, sulphur flower buckwheat is extremely variable, and sometimes hard to identify because the different varieties can look very different from one another. There are 25 varieties of sulphur flower buckwheat in California alone. In the Klamath-Siskiyou there are at least 15 separate varieties that vary in shape and form. The typical specimen has rounded, mounding, and low-growing evergreen foliage with bright yellow flower clusters. Sulphur flower buckwheat is perfect for a sunny, dry location or large rock garden. It is drought tolerant once established.
Growing Sulphur Flower Buckwheat From Seed in Containers
Sulphur Flower Buckwheat Seed Germination Requirements: 60 Days Cold-Moist Stratification
Sulphur flower buckwheat seeds typically need about 60 days of exposure to cold and moist conditions in order to break dormancy and trigger germination. This may vary depending on the source of the seed, the variety of sulphur flower buckwheat, the seed source elevation, and just plain, old seedling variation. In general though, sulphur flower buckwheat needs about 60 days cold-moist stratification.
Natural Cold-Moist Stratification
Natural cold-moist stratification can most easily be achieved by sowing the seed outside in fall to early winter and letting natural exposure to winter conditions — freeze/thaw, rain/snow, etc. — provide the cold-moist stratification, as it naturally occurs in nature. Seeds can be sown in containers or directly sown in the place you would like the plants to grow. On our land, here in the Siskiyou Mountains on the border of Oregon and California, we sow our sulphur flower buckwheat seeds in containers, or directly sow, typically in late November, but no later than late December.
Sowing sulphur flower buckwheat seeds outside in late fall to early winter works best for people that live in areas with cold winter climates; however, for people that live in areas without cold winter climates, or along the coast where freezing temperatures are rare, using artificial cold-moist stratification may be required to achieve germination success for sulphur flower buckwheat.
Pros: There is less up-front work involved in using natural cold-moist stratification methods. Simply sow seed outside in fall to early winter and let nature do the work.
Cons: People who live in warmer winter climates may not be able to achieve the natural cold-moist stratification requirements for sulphur flower buckwheat seeds.
Artificial Cold-Moist Stratification
As the images above depict, there are different ways to achieve cold-moist stratification artificially for sulphur flower buckwheat seeds. One of the methods is the “sandwich method,” where seed is placed on layered moist (not wet) paper towels, folded over and then slipped into a ziplock bag. The bag is then placed in the refrigerator for 60 days prior to sowing the seeds. It is best to check the seeds often for early germination. If you see that the seeds are starting to sprout, it is time to plant the germinates (aka sprouting seeds).
Another method is to place the seeds in layered cheesecloth, tied off a the top, and placed in moist peat moss in a breathable (at least not air-tight) container. The container is then placed in the refrigerator for 60 days prior to sowing the seeds. It is best to check the seeds often for early germination. If you see that the seeds are starting to sprout, it is time to plant the germinates.
Some people may prefer to germinate seeds using artificial cold-moist stratification techniques, prior to sowing the seeds, even if they do live in a cold winter environment, as it can ensure that each container will have a viable plant, without the risk of germination failure, wasting less soil and creating a more uniform planting.
Pros: Using artificial cold-moist stratification can result in a higher seedling establishment rate, with less soil wasted on “blanks,” or seed that doesn’t germinate.
Cons: It is more work up front to germinate seeds ahead of seed sowing.
Types of Containers for Starting Sulphur Flower Buckwheat from Seed
Tip: Sulphur flower buckwheat prefers well drained soil. A little extra perlite in typical potting soil mixture will help your soil drain better and keep your plants healthier.
There are many types of seed starting trays, with varying size cells and soil capacities. Starting seeds in seed trays is probably the most familiar method of native seed propagation. In this method either a single seed or several seeds are sown into individual cells within the seed tray. If several seedlings emerge within a single cell they can all be retained for a fuller plug, or they can be cut and/or thinned to a single seedling. Placing more than one seed per cell ensures at least one seed germinates in each cell.
Seeds should be lightly covered with sieved potting soil, perlite, vermiculite or nursery grit.
Transplanting is normally done when two to three true leaves have developed.
Pros: Each plug can be easily removed individually and transplanted into a larger container. Damage to roots is unlikely during transplanting if done with care.
Cons: Using a typical seed tray that is 2.5″-3″ deep requires that the seedlings be upsized soon after they are ready in order to prevent transplant shock, and/or root deformation. If you are the type of person who can get behind on transplanting, it’s better to use a deeper seed tray, like 5″ deep or more, to give yourself more time before upsizing needs to occur.
Much like a many-celled seed tray, placing many small pots into a tray and sowing seeds in them can also be a good way to grow individual wild buckwheat plants without crowding. Any size small container can be used for this method. Do you have a lot of 4″ pots around from purchasing plants from nurseries or from veggie starts? Put them to use growing wild buckwheat!
Sow a few seeds per individual small container. The seed should be lightly covered with sieved potting soil, perlite, vermiculite or nursery grit.
Pros: Small plants can be grown directly into a container that can then be transplanted directly into the ground or upsized into a larger container. Root damage and transplant shock are minimized.
Cons: More soil is needed upfront to germinate seeds in individual small containers. This method takes up more space for germinating seeds than seed trays.
Sowing Many Seeds in Single Containers
This method uses a single container to grow many seedlings for transplanting. Any small to medium sized container will work. Seed is sprinkled onto the surface of the soil medium with the expectation that many seedlings will emerge within the single container. The seed should be lightly covered with sieved potting soil, perlite, vermiculite or nursery grit. (Example: Use one KSNS packet of sulphur flower buckwheat seed per 1 gallon pot.)
Transplanting is normally done when two to three true leaves have developed after seed germination. Transplanting involves “pricking out” the seedlings after loosening the soil medium around them. This method works well for wild buckwheat species because they have fibrous root systems that are easy to transplant.
Pros: Sowing many seeds into single containers and “pricking out” transplants saves space in the nursery and is less work up front. Many plants can be grown from seed originally sown into only a single container.
Cons: If seed is sown too thickly, dense seedlings can be susceptible to “damping off” and other diseases. Transplanting and “pricking out” can be laborious and time intensive.
Utilizing seed flats is similar to sowing seeds into individual containers, however, flats are generally larger and more shallow. Seed is sprinkled onto the surface of the soil medium with the expectation that many seedlings will emerge within the seed flat. The seed should be lightly covered with sieved potting soil, perlite, vermiculite or nursery grit.
Transplanting is normally done when two to three true leaves have developed. Transplanting involves “pricking out” the seedlings after loosening the soil medium around them in the seed flat. This method works well for species like sulphur flower buckwheat.
Pros: Sowing many seeds into seed flats and “pricking out” transplants saves space in the nursery and is less work up front. Many plants can be grown from seed originally sown into a single seed flat.
Cons: If seed is sown too thickly dense seedlings can be susceptible to “damping off” and other diseases. Transplanting and “pricking out” can be laborious and time intensive.
People that buy vegetable starts in the spring end up with a lot of extra pony packs that can then be reused to grow native plants, including sulphur flower buckwheat.
In this method either a single seed or several seeds are sown into individual cells within the pony pack. If several seedlings emerge within a single cell they can all be retained for a fuller plug, or they can be cut and/or thinned to a single seedling. Placing more than one seed per cell ensures at least one seed germinates in each cell.
Seeds should be lightly covered with sieved potting soil, perlite, vermiculite or nursery grit.
Transplanting is normally done when two to three true leaves have developed.
Pros: Each plug from a pony pack can be easily removed individually and transplanted into a larger container. Damage to roots is unlikely during transplanting if done with care.
Cons: Pony packs are shallow and require that seedlings be upsized soon after they are ready in order to prevent root damage and/or deformation.
Most home nurseries don’t have tubes on hand, however, if you find yourself with tubes you’ve bought from other nurseries, or were given tubes by someone to reuse, they are a great way to grow sulphur flower buckwheat. Many commercial and agency nurseries use tubes for growing wild buckwheats because they can get a deep root system while using less space in the nursery.
In this method either a single seed or several seeds are sown into individual tubes. If several seedlings emerge within a single tube they can all be retained for a fuller tube, or they can be cut and/or thinned to a single seedling. Placing more than one seed per tube ensures at least one seed germinates in each tube.
Seeds should be lightly covered with sieved potting soil, perlite, vermiculite or nursery grit.
Pros: Great for deeper root growth of wild buckwheat seedlings. Individual plants can be grown in each tube, which can then be easily planted in the ground or transplanted into a larger container when ready. Damage to roots is unlikely during transplanting if done with care.
Cons: Tubes require special trays to hold them, which can take up a lot of space in the nursery. Tubes and their trays can be expensive to purchase brand new. Tube trays are difficult to recycle and create a lot more plastic in the nursery.
Ellepots and Jiffypots
Ellepots and Jiffypots are examples of premade miniplugs or small-volume, mostly biodegradable containers that you can purchase for starting seeds. Products like these have fully or mostly biodegradable wrappers and the entire plug can be transplanted, eliminating transplant shock and preserving healthy root structure. Take note that not all products like these are eco-friendly. Jiffy pellets (a type of Jiffy pot) have nylon mesh that is “photodegradable,” (will degrade when exposed to sunlight) that can break down in several years, but it is still a plastic product.
In this method either a single seed or several seeds are sown into Ellepots or Jiffypots. If several seedlings emerge within a single pot they can all be retained for a fuller plug, or they can be cut and/or thinned to a single seedling. Placing more than one seed per ellepot/jiffypot ensures at least one seed germinates in each pot.
Seeds should be lightly covered with sieved potting soil, perlite, vermiculite or nursery grit.
Pros: Ellepots and Jiffypots come premade and are easy to work with. After roots fill out the pots the entire pot can be transplanted without transplant shock.
Cons: Special trays may be required to hold Ellepots or Jiffypots, and the product is expensive and needs to be shipped to you unless you can purchase them at a local nursery supply store. This method isn’t for everyone and a small trial run should be made before investing heavily in Ellepots or Jiffypots for growing wild buckwheat from seed. Also, make sure the soil mix is right for the species you will be growing. Jiffy pellets are primarily composed of peat moss, which may be too acidic for growing wild buckwheats.
Direct Sowing Sulphur Flower Buckwheat Seeds
Sulphur flower buckwheat seeds can be sown via direct sowing. Direct sowing is the process of sowing seeds directly at the site where you wish to grow the plants.
The photo at the left shows various wild buckwheat species grown from directly sown seeds in a KSNS native seeding project, including sulphur flower buckwheat. You can see the darker, sulphur-yellow-colored flowers of suphur flower buckwheat near the center of the photo. This photo was taken three summers after seed sowing.
Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds has also worked on a large native seeding and planting project at Troon Vineyard in the Applegate Valley in southwest Oregon that will eventually be a demonstration garden, complete with paths, plant signs and interpretive signs. Out of the nearly 100 species included in the project, the majority of species were established through direct seed sowing, including a patch of sulphur flower buckwheat that has established very well via direct sowing this first year of growth. Next summer we will have more photos and documentation of this successful project!
In order to successfully grow sulphur flower buckwheat through direct sowing of seed, you must first prepare the site, or choose a site with minimal competition from existing vegetation. If sowing seed in a small area, place seed in a small container, or empty the contents of a seed packet into the palm of your hand, and scatter the seed by hand onto the soil surface. Sow a little seed in one direction and then switch directions and sow seed in the opposite direction in order to get better coverage. Only scatter a little seed at a time. After sowing the seed use a rake or your hand to lightly rake the seed into the soil, just so the seed is barely covered by soil. Contact with soil is important for seed germination. It helps the seed stay moist and limits predation by birds and small mammals. Burying seed too deeply in the soil will prevent seed germination. Only a light layer of soil, sifted potting soil or grit is needed to cover the seeds. After sowing, water the seeds into the soil using a watering can or watering hose with a water breaker. It is always nice to time your direct seed sowing for just before predicted rain so you can let a natural rain show water the seeds in.
*Fun Fact* — The spelling of the word sulphur with a ‘ph’ rather than an ‘f’, as in sulfur, is simply the distinction between Oxford English spelling and American English. For more information you can read about the switch from using the spelling sulphur to sulfur in this Nature Chemistry article. The historic spelling of the common name, sulphur flower buckwheat, will probably remain and is an interesting example of how language and spelling evolves over time.
We currently have 30 seed packets of Sulphur flower buckwheat available for purchase through our online shopping cart, with more on the way. Just click on the Buy now button below.