View Full Version : growing blue elderberry from seeds

clay cockrill
08-08-2007, 09:47 PM
I collected some berries from a vibrant blue elderberry (Sambucus mexicana) growing at 6000 feet in the western sierra. I would like to grow some plants to transplant on my wild property at 3000 feet. I have the book Seeds of Woody Plants of North America (Young and Young), but alas it's not very user friendly for an amateur horticulturist. It states, "Elder seeds are difficult to germinate because of their dormant embryos and hard seedcoats. Pretreatment usually consists of 90 days of warm stratification followed by 90 days of prechilling. Heit suggests 10 to 15 minutes soaking in acid followed by 2 months of prechilling." For S. racemosa it then states, "Warm stratify 10 weeks at 25 degrees C, then prechill 12 weeks; provide light 8 hours/day." Later on the book says, "Elder seeds can be sown in the fall soon after collection or prechilled and sown in the spring. In either case, germination is not complete until the spring of the second year after sowing. It may be desirable to sow seeds as soon as they are collected, without allowing them to dry."
It gives no further detail for any of these processes. Can you put it in English for me? I have sundried the berries and have about 1/2 cup of them. They were collected about 1 week ago. Should I warm stratify, prechill or treat with acid? If so, how do I do it? Can I prechill in my refrigerator? If needed, what kind of acid should I use? The berries are dried and I know each one contains several seeds. Do they need to be divided further or can I just pretreat the dried berries then plant them whole? What does the statement, "germination is not complete until the following spring" mean? Does it mean when I put them in dirt that I wait a year before they come up? If so, do I water them everyday and wait patiently for a year to see if they lived? What kind of soil media should I use? I love my book but it is obviously too technical for me. Could you suggest a simpler book for me? I have the Schmidt book but it doesn't discuss this plant. Sorry for this overly detailed querry.

08-09-2007, 10:35 AM
I reccomend the book "Seed propagation of California Native Plants" by Dara Emery - you can buy it online through the CNPS bookstore. Learning to grow california native plants is a lot of fun but unfortunately you picked one of the harder ones to start out with. "Chilling" generally means to put in your refrigerator for 3 months - basically acting as mother nature would do if the berries were to fall naturally out in the wild. Usually the wild animals are able to remove the edible portions of the berries and remove any germination inhibitors as it passes through their gut (acid treatments can mimic this) and then they deposit the seeds in the soil - winter comes along (your refrigerator) and then you plant them.....buy the book (playing with acid requires some reading), do some experimenting and have fun! If you fail try again or go to a local native plant nursery and buy an elderberry and plant it on your property.