Can Eastern red cedar seeds germinate without birds?

zippo1July 29, 2009

I have been told that the "ONLY" way Eastern red cedar seeds can germinate In nature Is when birds eat the seeds then deposit them. I was told that seeds that fall off the tree and land on the ground can't germinate at all, Is this true? Now Im not talking someone collecting the seeds and doing It that way, Im simply talking about In nature. It would seem to me that the seeds that fall to the ground that some would be able to germinate without having to be eatin by a bird, LOL crazy question but have any of you all witnessed a berry fall to the ground and 2 or so years later know that that was the same berry that fell and germinated without having been eatin by a bird.

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No! I have never witnessed a ERC berry falling to the ground and then 2-3 years later seen that that very seed germinates. Who keeps that much track of a single juniper berry? However I have seen several seedlings growing underneath or within 3' of canopy of an ERC tree with sunlight reaching under the canopy. The logical thought would be that these seedlings were from berries of that same tree whose canopy they were under.
From what little I know, would assume that the berry passing thru the bird digestive system enhances seed germination, but that the berries/seeds will germinate, but at a lower % rate, without it. Juniper seed germination is supposed to be somewhat difficult so I will be curious of any results or methods from those who have tried it.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 9:26AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

all i know is that all my seedlings are 100 feet from mature plants... nothing in between.. but all under the next set of deciduous trees...

in other words.. they must eat them.. and then nest in the other trees .. where they drop the seed ...

just speculation ....

if you are wondering.. because you want to grow seeds.. why not just go harvest small seedlings ... they ARE EVERYWHERE >... these plant are nearly indestructable.. though august isnt a great time to be digging them up.. if anything can handle it.. they would

for high success.. i would do it in later fall in my z5 .. where are you??


    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 10:00AM
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barbaraincalif(Z 8/9)

I recall a similar thread (remember...tunilla, tomatoes?) and include an experimental germination trial whereupon the juniper seeds have been processed by human consumption.


    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 11:04AM
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Oh my! As if eating the juniper berries wasn't bad enough...

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 12:27PM
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So the way I get It Is that the seeds will STILL germinate from simply falling off and hitting the ground but at a lower percentage compared to passing through a bird? Just keep a simple mind when replying to me because It was just a thought. No I don't want to plant any seeds or dig any up ALL i was wanting to know has pretty much been answered. I was just thinking that If there was no birds all of a sudden then In time I thought there would be no ERC. However I guess In do time they can germinate on there own with no assistance from birds/people

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 12:43PM
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from Silvics of Eastern Red Cedar :

"Untreated seeds may be sown in the fall and mulched until germination during the second spring after planting (23); but when fruits are depulped, dried, and stored at -16° C (4° F), seeds germinate the first spring after summer sowing (46). Germination is epigeal.

Fruits are eaten by birds and other animals, which are important vectors for seed dissemination (20). Seeds that pass through animal digestive tracts and those that remain on the ground beneath the trees may germinate the first or second spring. Most of the natural germination of eastern redcedar seed takes place in early spring of the second year after dispersal."

So untreated seeds may germinate the 2nd yr after planting. Those that pass thru a digestive tract will generally germinate 1st yr. after planting. If no birds, there would be less ERC trees in the wild.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 1:27PM
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Can't think of the species right now, but there are examples in nature of exactly what Zippo1 is talking about. Some type of bird has gone extinct, somewhere tropical, and now, a tree species is on the verge of disappearing along with the bird.


    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 7:50PM
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There's absolutely nothing magic going on in the digestive tract of the bird. Do some reading on the subject of "overcoming seed dormancy", "stratification" and "scarification." Some seeds need nothing more than moisture and warmth to germinate while others need a cold period or several warm/cold cycles, some need the hard seed coat damaged or thinned so that it will allow moisture to get to the germ, some need a combination of all the above. Passing through a bird's crop and being rolled around with grit, then exposed to acids in the digestive tract often does a better job of scarification (pulp removal and seed coat thinning) than just laying on the ground waiting for nature's cycles to help the seed coat to decompose a little. As long as you have collected mature, viable seed, you should be able to mimic what happens inside the bird and sprout them yourself.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 1:41PM
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Silvervista, Can the seeds that fall off the tree and land below It can they grow without any assistance from birds/people? If It wasn't for birds and people I believe the Eastern red cedar In time would go extinct!

Scotjute It said the seeds "may" germinate. It didn't come right out and say they would germinate. Im talking about the ones that falls and are not eaten.

To bad the eastern red cedar seeds couldn't have a darn near guarantee of germinating like the Tree of heaven seeds.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 3:53PM
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A number of trees have this strategy of a preferred animal seed ingestor making the seeds more viable via the digestive process and dispersing them far from the parent plant. Making seed germination less likey near the parent is a good strategy, as you don't want to create a lot of resource cometition next to a mature seed-bearing tree. Dogwoods are another good example of seeds that need digestion / scarification for sprouting. You rarely find dogwood seedlings under a dogwood tree. Their fruits have a germination inhibitor that must be stripped off, and the seed coats nicked. Each fall I have a flock of thousands of Robins descend on my woods - whch are full of dogwoods - and strip the trees bare of fruit. It reminds me of a scene from "The Birds"! There are always tons of Dogwood seedlings near their roosting spots.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 9:14PM
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There's never any guarantees any seed will germinate. Most ERC I've seen do not have hundreds of seedlings sprouting beneath them. Most in fact have very few if any. I have seen some, so I think that it does occur, but not very frequently.
There's usually plenty of seedlings everywhere, so I've never tried to germinate the seeds myself.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 1:16PM
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Altho I'm not an expert on this, I do believe that many species of conifer and decidious trees need some form of scarification of the seed coat before the seeds will germinate.

The scarification could be done via birds, deer, etc. eating the seeds, or through artifical (human) scarification.

This could also happen naturally, but as already stated it might take a couple of years for a tough seed coat to split or break up enough for moisture to enter.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 5:10PM
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Can Eastern red cedar seeds germinate without birds?

The answer to the questions is yes! My parents did it in Nebraska in the 1950's. They pulled the seeds off the cedar trees, soaked them in a mixture of lye water. This method scarification worked. They then planted the cedar seeds in a box with soil and the cedar trees came up as thick as hair on a dogs back.

My question is: does anyone know how much lye do you put in a gallon of water to scarify the cedar seeds and how long do you let them soak before pouring off the lye water. Then perhaps neutralizing the seeds with vinegar before planting them in the soil?

    Bookmark   December 22, 2010 at 1:57PM
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greenlarry(UK 8/9)

Wait, ERCs produce berries? I thought in the world of conifers that only junipers and Ginkgo produce berries!

    Bookmark   December 22, 2010 at 2:10PM
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@greenlarry - I believe that ERC is not a true cedar it is a juniper...( Juniperus virginiana)

J : )

    Bookmark   December 22, 2010 at 3:17PM
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greenlarry(UK 8/9)

Ah right! Now i feel stupid! I had an idea it wasn't a true cedar but I must have been thinking of Calocedrus!

    Bookmark   December 22, 2010 at 3:22PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Again, common terms are a cause for confusion!

    Bookmark   December 23, 2010 at 11:48AM
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greenlarry(UK 8/9)

Which is why I always prefer latin names! And BTW folks, what on earth is lye?

    Bookmark   December 23, 2010 at 2:16PM
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The juniper berries are actually fleshy cones. They look more like a berry than a cone.
Lye is a strongly alkaline liquid. Made from wood ash and beef tallow I think.
I have since this thread started germinated ERC seeds. While the rate of germination was low it did occur. Soaked "berries" in water for 3-4 days and then stripped them to the seed by hand. Planted in pots just barely pushed seeds into soil and covered with thin layer of mulch. Had about 5% germinate 1st yr.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2010 at 5:55PM
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