Germinating Sea Buckthorn
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Jeff Hoyle
Posted on: January 09, 2005

In September of 2003 I bought a 100g batch of Sea Buckthorn seed from Richters. I have so far got almost no (less than 5%) germination. I am hoping to get some advice from you... So far I have tried the ‘moist sand at +5 degrees C for 3 months’ treatment as per the package. I have actually repeated this 3 times on a large batch of the seed. I realise that the seed has to have dormancy broken do you have any other suggestions?

The literature seems to point to fall being the best seeding time. This is sowing in either flats or in a seed bed, then covered with a mulch. The overwintering freezing and thawing breaks the seed dormancy. Generally, this process can be simulating by moist cool-warm cycles, and it may take more than one cycle to achieve germination. But because little is known about the dormancy, the fall outdoor sowing seems to be the easiest and surest way to start the seeds.

Although germination rates as high as 95% have been recorded, in our experience commercially available seeds germinate at rates much lower, typically around 40-50%. With the appropriate pretreatment, seeds can germinate in as few as 6 days, but if dormancy is not sufficiently broken we have seen germination continue for three months or more.

Li and Schroeder had good results with the following protocol:

1. moist storage in sand for 90 days at 5 degrees Celsius

2. warm to 21 degrees Celsius for 1-2 days, and air dry for 1 day

3. dry storage until September

4. sow in late September outside

With fresh seed, they managed to get germination as high as 95%.

Seabuckthorn seeds last 4-5 years. But because your seeds date back to 2003 with a possible harvest 1-2 years earlier, we suggest that you acquire some fresher seed as insurance. Certainly, keep trying to germinate your seeds -- don’t throw them out yet -- but you may want to try some fresher seeds also.

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