The Nursery (Part 3: The seeds)

That wonderful feeling when you receive a little parcel in the post full of seed packets…is one I enjoy a bit too much. Hence, I may have overdone things a bit when it came to ordering seeds.

I ordered lots and lots of cacti seeds of various genera from Ariocarpus to Gymnocalycium and Puna to Rebutia, to Obregonia and Sclerocactus and so on. I also ordered seeds from various Mesembs, particularly Lithops and Conophytum which I had never done before, and some other succulents and even some non-succulents. It is a lot of fun to peruse seed lists and see all there is on offer. Between the nurseries mentioned here and all the other dozens and dozens out there, I’m sure one can find seeds on offer for just about any species and form ever described.

I have ordered seeds from quite a few suppliers over the years, and in 2013 I ordered seeds from six different nurseries around the world (the pictures of seeds do not necessarily correspond with the nurseries they’re placed beneath):

  • Steven Brack’s nursery Mesa Garden in the USA
    (http://www.mesagarden.com)
    • Mesa Garden is particularly strong on North-American cacti, but have an excellent selection of most genera. They also have a very good selection of Mesembs and other succulents. A large number of the species come with locality information and collection numbers. Mesa Garden is also known to be diligent in ensuring that species with collection numbers are not crossed with specimens with different collection numbers (which not all nurseries are). They do not have an online store, but they have easy to use order forms you can e-mail them, or you can use Excel-sheets. Delivery times to Norway are usually one or two months, but can take up to three months. This is largely because they first of all are very busy but also because when ordering (from outside the U.S.) species on the CITES check-list they have to acquire a CITES certificate from the authorities to enclose with the parcel. This can take some time and is not any fault of theirs. Germination rates are usually very good.

    Seeds of the wonderfully interesting Welwitschia mirabilis of the Namib Desert.
    The wings surrounding the seed are to aid with airborne seed dispersal.
    The plant is a relic from the time of the dinosaurs and it can live for a thousand years or more.
    It is a gymnosperm and with it’s closest relatives (though close is stretching it!) being firs and pines,
    it is certainly no succulent.

    Seeds of Dioscorea hemicrypta X elephantipes.
    As with the above Welwitschia these seeds are also designed to spread by wind,
    as can be seen by the wings on each side of the seed. It is also not a succulent,
    but rather a caudiciform – plants that develop a water storage organ called a caudex
    above ground from which stems sprout.


    • Mats Winberg’s nursery SuccSeed in Sweden
      (http://www.succseed.com)
      • SuccSeed is strong on South-American cacti and perhaps in particular Rebutia. A large number of the species come with locality information and collection numbers. They also sell various accessories such as pots and books. Their website is very good and easy to order from. Delivery times to Norway are very good, and usually the parcel arrives in a week. Germination rates are usually very good.

      Seeds of Pediocactus peeblesianus var. fickeisenii (ca. 2-3 mm wide).
      The seeds are large and difficult to germinate without some form of treatment.
      Directly below the label can be seen a “double” seed. I have never seen anything like it before.
      I originally wrote under this picture that only one seedling germinated from the twin seed, but after
      looking at some pictures taken shortly after I sowed the seeds I realised I had got this species mixed
      up with another and, in fact, two plants sprouted from it. See Part 5 of this series for a picture of them.

      Seeds of Sclerocactus mesae-verdae (ca. 3 mm wide).
      Like the above Pediocactus, these two genera from the U.S. are notorious
      for being difficult to germinate and perhaps even more difficult to keep
      alive for any meaningful length of time. Still, with mechanical scarification
      of the seeds germination was surprisingly good!

        • Ludwig Bercht’s nursery Bercht-Cactus in Holland
          (http://www.bercht-cactus.nl)
          • Bercht is particularly strong on South-American cacti and in particular the small globular South-American genera (Gymnocalycium, Frailea, Rebutia etc.). Most of the species come with locality information and collection numbers. They do not have an online store, but like Mesa Garden you can send an Excel-sheet. Delivery times to Norway are very good and usually takes around three weeks. Germination rates are usually very good.

          Seeds of Adenium arabicum.
          In addition to the above, I also sowed seeds of A. obesum and A. multiflorum.
          The latter began flowering one year after sowing.

          Seeds of Pseudolithos cubiformis (ca. 4 mm wide).
          This very unusual succulent comes from Somalia, and in a way it looks perhaps
          more like a living rock than any Ariocarpus or Lithops.

            • Jörg and Brigitte Piltz’s nursery Kakteen-Piltz in Germany
              (http://www.kakteen-piltz.de)
              • Piltz have a wide selection of genera with many interesting species. Not as many species come with locality information and collection numbers as the first three nurseries. They have an online order form you can use, or you can also send an order form on e-mail. Delivery times to Norway are very good and usually takes around three weeks. Germinations rates are usually very good.

              Seeds of Astrophytum asterias (ca. 2-3 mm wide).
              The seeds are large but unusually with large-seeded cacti, Astrophytum species
              germinate readily – often starting to appear just three days after sowing.

              Seeds of Ariocarpus trigonus (ca. 1 mm wide).
              Ariocarpus seeds usually germinate fairly well, but I have found that they
              can often be a bit hit and miss with some pots completely devoid of life
              while in others they may pop up happily.  

                • Bettina Köhres’ nursery Köhres Kakteen in Germany
                  (http://www.koehres-kaktus.de)
                  • Köhres also have a large selection of genera, and are quite strong on Astrophytum and Lophophora among others. They also have a large and varied selection of succulents, caudiciforms and various other interesting trees and plants. Not as many species come with locality information and collection numbers as the first three nurseries. They have an online store you can use, though it is not as good as SuccSeed’s. Delivery times to Norway are very good and usually takes around three weeks. Germination rates have been a bit hit and miss for me, but generally lower than the previous four nurseries.

                  Seeds of Puna bonniae (ca. 3-5 mm wide).
                  This is a very attractive Argentinian species with very strange-looking seeds for the cactus family.
                  Sadly none of the seeds germinated. Members of the cactus subfamily Opuntioideae are
                  often difficult to germinate though.

                  Seeds of Tephrocactus geometricus (ca. 5-8 mm wide).
                  This is another member of the cactus subfamily Opuntioideae, also with interesting seeds.
                  It is somewhat similar to Puna bonniae pictured above, both from the same region of Argentina.
                  This species had a 50 % germination rate though, and the plants are growing happily.

                    • Kamil Prochazka’s nursery Kaktusy in the Czech Republic
                      (http://www.kaktusy.cz/eshop/)
                      • Kaktusy have a very wide selection of genera with usually more than one (and sometimes dozens) forms of the same species from different localitites. Very strong on the North-American genera such as Ariocarpus, but also on many of the South-American genera. They have an online store you can use, but it is not the most practical, and the site is not the easiest to navigate either. This is the only nursery on this list I had not ordered from before, and I may have been very unlucky, but germination rates were largely very poor. I have recently ordered from them a second time and I will update this once I receive and sow those seeds. As I have only ordered from them once, it’s difficult to comment on delivery times, but it took three and half months for the order to arrive. I don’t know if this is usual, but I believe it is common with many Czech nurseries that delivery can take several months. I think many of them are run as co-ops, so it’s possible that the delivery times are a result both of being busy, but also of having to wait for different suppliers to deliver their seeds. It is not really a problem though, as long as you are aware of it.

                      Seeds of Lophophora diffusa ssp. kubesae (ca. 1 mm wide).
                      I do not know if the subspecies is worthy of scientific recognition. I suspect it
                      is merely a regional form of L. diffusa, but I look forward to seeing how it turns out.
                      In contrast to the much better known Lophophora williamsii (Peyote), this species
                      does not contain any mind-altering alcaloids.

                      Little bags of seeds happily awaiting sowing! Seeds usually come in bags like these.
                      Sometimes labels may come with the bags, but usually there will just be a
                      catalogue number referring to the respective nursery’s seed list.

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