• Oregon Myrtle – Can it be started from a nut?

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    Another experiment under way… this one involving Oregon Myrtle nuts collected from the Southern Oregon coast in November. Can we sprout them? We have been told that it’s challenging…

    Don’t miss the Myrtle Nut update from 2/22/2014.

    Oregon Myrtle Nut

    Oregon Myrtle Nut

    Oregon Myrtle (called California Laurel if it’s growing in California) is one of very few evergreen broadleaf trees native to the Pacific Northwest. It is a relative of the Bay Laurel (if you cook with bay leaves, you can thank the Bay Laurel), which is native to the Mediterranean. Like the Bay Laurel, Oregon Myrtle has fragrant leaves that can be used in cooking—only Oregon Myrtle leaves can be much more pungent, so watch out!

    Myrtle can grow in a shrub-like fashion when they are young, but can reach up to 30 meters in height. As trees, they are prized by woodworkers for the high-quality wood they produce. If you visit Oregon, you will find many shops full of lovely hand-crafted myrtlewood items, including carvings and even musical instruments. Traditionally, native peoples of the Pacific Northwest have used myrtle leaves and nuts for medicinal remedies and food.

    In conclusion, this is a fascinating tree, full of history and value, and would be well worth growing! One problem… We have nuts, not cuttings, and these little buggers are notoriously difficult to grow from nuts!

    In perfect conditions, the average germination rate of nuts is reportedly only about 40%, and our conditions are far from perfect. The nuts like to germinate in cool weather and can take as long as 3 months to germinate, giving plenty of time for problems to arise.

    The root of the problem is rot—the seeds need to be moist, yet they have a tendency to rot before they can sprout. Here are four things we’re going to try to minimize rot:

    Myrtle Nuts in Pots

    Myrtle Nuts in Pots

    1. Remove the rot-provoking outer casing – Before we planted the seeds, we scraped off the soft bark-like outer casing that surrounds the nut. The thought is that the casing has a tendency to retain water and encourages rot that eventually infects the entire nut. Removing this could help the seed stay longer in the ground before beginning to rot, giving germination a better chance to win the battle.
    2. Move that water – To help keep water from drowning the nut, we chose to use a well-draining general planting mix with plenty of peat, some pearlite and a thin layer of mulch over the top to help maintain an even moisture level. In retrospect, a bit of sand mixed in may have helped some.
    3. Provide shelter – We’ve planted the nuts (2x the length of the nut deep) in a variety of different sized pots and placed some of them outside against a south-facing wall and under an overhang. They will get some rain, but not a lot. This will protect them from frost and harsh winter winds out of the North. They will also get lots of early-day sunlight with diffused sunlight in the afternoons. If we can get some pine straw, we hope to put a thin layer over the top of the pots and some in between to help insulate a bit. Hopefully all of this will help emulate the mild conditions of a coastal winter.We also have another set of nuts that we’ve placed in smaller pots and are incubating in an unheated greenhouse.
    4. Monitor moisture – Since our pots are sheltered, we’ll want to make sure that they do stay sufficiently damp. I suspect we’ll have to water them sparingly once every week or two.

    So, freshly-planted seeds is what we have today… what will we have as of April?

    ~Indi

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