Issue: March117, 2001


Pine seeds

Question:

I like pine trees and have 45 of them around my house. They are four years old. My question is—Where are the pine tree seeds? I have room for more trees but can't afford the nursery prices. I want to start my own from seeds. Can you tell me how to do this? Brian Las Cruces

Answer:

Pine seeds are produced inside the closed pine cones. These seeds are rapidly dispersed by the wind once the pine cones open. This occurs before the pine cones drop from the tree. When you look at a pine cone collected from the ground, you may find a shallow depression on the upper surface of a cone scale where the seed once resided, but you rarely find the seed itself. You will need to harvest mature cones from the tree, just before the cone opens or before it is fully open. Then you can collect the seeds.

The seeds may be treated to a few weeks of cold moist storage (in moist vermiculite in a refrigerator) before planting, although this is not essential. This cold storage treatment will speed seed germination once the seeds are planted. Plant the seeds in the garden or in a pot of good potting soil, keep them moist but not soggy. In time, they will germinate and grow. This is a slow but interesting way to grow a pine tree. It may take the trees several years to reach the size that you will find in the nursery. This depends on the species of pine and the conditions under which you grow the young trees.


Yaupon holly

Question:

My question is concerning yaupon holly. I recently saw these shrubs at a local garden center. I have been unable to find much information on them. The one thing I have found is that they like acid soils. I would really like to have a couple of these, but will I be able to get my sandy/clay soil to their liking? Also, are they able to stand the New Mexico sun? They would be receiving full sun all day in my yard. Sheila Corrales, N.M.

Answer:

This is a tough question. I am familiar with the yaupon holly because I grew up in Southeast Texas and saw it growing ornamentally and natively. It is a beautiful small tree, or large shrub with red berries and evergreen leaves (in its native range). It is dioecious, meaning that it has separate male and female plants. To have the berries you need both, especially in this area where the plants are not common.

The Sunset Western Garden Book states that it is the most adaptable of the small-leafed hollies to alkaline soil. However, that book doesn't recommend it for this area. Other books list its hardiness as USDA zone 7, so it should survive winters in the Middle Rio Grande Valley. I have seen it twice in Albuquerque, I think, but didn't have time to closely examine it to confirm my identification. If I was correct, they were doing quite well. However, I would expect it to require considerable irrigation. An alternative plant to consider is the New Mexico native Foresteria. Often called New Mexico olive or New Mexico privet, it looks much like the yaupon except that it is deciduous and has bluish berries. Like the yaupon it is dioecious, so you will need two plants if you want the berries. Unlike the yaupon, it is known to be adapted to this area and will do well with limited irrigation. If you do choose to plant the yaupon, I would be interested in knowing how it performs for you in Corrales.

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Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden, Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at desertblooms@nmsu.edu or at https://www.facebook.com/DesertBloomsNM/. Please include your county Extension Agent (aces.nmsu.edu/county) and your county of residence with your question!

For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page: desertblooms@nmsu.edu.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.