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"And the LORD God made ... trees that were pleasing to the eye ..." Gen. 2:9, New International Version.

"Bonsai isn't just something I do; it's part of what I am." Remark to my wife and daughter.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Acorns From the Alamo. (Well, about a block away.)

     Early in November I went to San Antonio, Texas, to attend the 2013 annual conference of the American Translators Association. There wasn't much time for sight-seeing, but I did manage to pick up some acorns of Southern live oak (Quercus virginiana) within sight of the famous old Alamo mission.

Now almost 300 years old and originally a Spanish mission, the Alamo was built largely from the fine local limestone. 

For any who don't know, Quercus virginiana is one of those North American species that has turned out to work quite well for bonsai. Like most oaks, it shows little or no apical dominance: so its branches tend to wander all over the sky, as if they were exploring. (No doubt because I'm the "wandering explorer" type myself, I like that feature in oaks. )

Live oaks on the grounds of the Guenther House restaurant, San Antonio.

I apologize for the quality of the next two photos. Regrettably, I don't have any better ones.

I brought home half a dozen acorns in an empty medicine vial. One already had a radicle (first root) emerging from the bottom.

Blue arrow points to the emerging radicle.

No point in planting this one.
When I dumped out the contents of the vial, a stowaway appeared! A brownish-pink weevil larva, about 3/16-inch long (5 mm,) fell out with the acorns. Where it had been was quickly obvious. (Grr!)

(When I was gathering acorns, I saw a number of them with such holes, but didn't realize they were exit holes. This beastie had simply not eaten its way out yet when I picked up the acorn it had chosen for lunch.)

I planted the remaining five acorns in a coarse mix, all of them with their points down. The one with the radicle already emerging went into its own little pot, the others into cells in a propagation-size Rootmaker®.

Planted and ready to develop.

Since they had all been lying on top of the ground and one of them had begun to germinate, I planted each acorn with its top flush with the surface of the mix. Some seeds need light to germinate, and I surmised that live oak might be one of those.

Light blue arrow: the top of one acorn.
However, I checked my supposition via a Google search, and learned that commercial live-oak growers usually plant the seeds at least 1 inch deep. So I covered each one with a layer of sphagnum.

Quercus virginiana is native to the southeastern USA; it's rated winter-hardy to USDA Zone 7 (minimum winter temperature 0° F.) Here in Indiana, it is half-hardy, like crape myrtle and serissa. The four seeds in the Rootmaker® went into our unheated back room for the winter; if temperatures below 20° F (-7° C) are expected, I'll move them to a warmer spot temporarily.

The acorn that's already starting to sprout will stay in the Crate. If all goes well, sometime in the next few weeks I'll have a "baby" picture to post! <wink>

 :-)  :-)  :-)

P.S. Friends in other countries: for the significance of the Alamo in US history, Google "Battle of the Alamo."

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