Thread: Want to Raise Hickory Trees from Seed...

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  1. #1

    Want to Raise Hickory Trees from Seed...

    Hello, I brought home some nuts from Susquehanna State Park in MD, that I've identified as Bitternut Hickory. I'd like to raise these, but it's already mid-August. I haven't removed the husk yet, and I've had them in cold water in the fridge for a few days.

    Should I just remove the husk and pot them? Or should I remove the husk and leave them in the water to stratify a while longer? Should I not remove the husk at all??

    Any advice is appreciated (rookie tree cultivator here)... thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Central Oklahoma - Zone 7 for now

    RE: Want to Raise Hickory Trees from Seed...

    Not the best nuts to use, fwiw. I have the same type of tree(s), and volunteers sprouting *everywhere* from last year's nuts. Yours should've sprouted early Spring if they are 'old' nuts, but did not obviously, and may be too dry or such *now*. The old nuts are likely going to be almost-black and dry outer part(s). You can put them in-ground (~4-5" deep) and hope for them next Spring; now would be bad time to sprout as they have slower growth and take longer to get ready for winter. If they stayed within spec, like not drying out , they'll show growth when ground rewarms. If they are *new* (this year's) nuts - bright green mostly, then they are probably not fully developed and 'weak' or won't germinate at worst. Don't bother unless they look fully mature. Mid to later season makes for better nuts usually. I've had a lot of hickory nuts fall from wind, and those still on tree keep getting bigger. I do not know what the time-frame for that area is, fwiw - those *may* be good-to-go...

    No need to soak in water at all, not ever. Let them dry for a few days... Lose the husks if they pop right off, don't use much force, and they aren't a big deal. Better to stratify, if needed, in pot that is buried in-ground in case temps get really frigid - a refrigerator shelf works fine, too as long as long as there's only a *tiny* bit of moisture at most in the baggie. Molds and such grow really fast if too wet within baggie - check 'em now and then. Being in a pot in-ground, or in-ground sans pot, helps insulate the nut, and whole thing can be lifted out/transplanted easily when growth shows. Its how I do a lot of stuff now, and works better than just a pot sitting there in full exposure to cold air/winds, which has failed me before Just don't forget to label if you more than one or two! Many things look similar for awhile when sprouting, and gets frustrating trying to remember what is what and *where*, LOL A common 'rookie' mistake...

    HTH, and have fun - hickories are pretty easy, and plant a few extra wherever you want them as die-off happens and extra unneeded trees are easily dealt with. You'll probably see no more than a foot of growth in first season or two; not much more even if it grows fast for you. Let us know how it goes when it 'happens'!


  3. #3

    RE: Want to Raise Hickory Trees from Seed...

    Hey, thanks for the quick reply...

    I only picked them up a week ago and they were laying nearby the road, I picked up the cleanest looking ones. A couple of the nuts are bright green and the others are a little darker. They appear to be full size.

    I took them out of the water, now they're drying out on a dish in the fridge. I'm thinking I'll let them dry out a few more days, then pot them (in sawed off 64 oz Gatorade bottles) and put the containers in the ground like you said and keep them watered.

    If they sprout, would I just leave them out there or put them in a window this winter? Also did you say it doesn't make any difference whether I take off the husk or not?

    Thanks again...

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Central Oklahoma - Zone 7 for now

    RE: Want to Raise Hickory Trees from Seed...

    They sound like they are 'new', especially if any bright green present. If so, they will *not* sprout until next Spring unless you force them sooner. No need to do so; it'd be unhealthy for them overall. *Never* expect to grow an outside tree through a window - many reasons, but just don't try Especially when emerging leaves want full-power sun to take over from the nut's dwindling energy 'reserves', etc...

    Get as much husk off as you reasonably can - no worries about tiny fragments/shreds that cling to nut, or making nut shiny and smoothlike. Use those bottles (I use similar 'trash' all the time) and bury with nut 4-5" down or so, nothing exact and no 'special' soils, especially bagged soils. Make sure there's adequate drain holes so bottle does not fill up and float out nut in heavy rains. Cover all area with something (mulch/leaves/etc) as you can with semi-thick layer (3-5" is more than enough, IMO) to help keep from getting too dry too long and from experiencing wide temp swings/lows through winter. No need to really 'water' as with usual plants/trees - just every now and then -> once/week unless *really* - and none if rains recently. All you need to do is get them *moist* occasionally, not well-watered, which can lead to rot. Essentially, you are making a 'bed' to let nut sleep until Spring ground-temps wake it up - then remove the covering mulch/stuff to get it out of the way.

    By not giving them enough 'frig-time to overcome the 'cold inhibitor' programmed into the nuts, you will keep them from germinating this season. If they *did* germinate, they'd be weak with little good growth and other inherent probs, and possibly not be healthy enough to start new growth next year. Patience is a must in this case, IMO...sorry.

    When they sprout next Spring, *then* you can move them, unless you just bury them where you want 'em to grow in the first place I use the bury-a-pot thing as I have a large area and tall grasses around, so I keep them close until they can be away from 'Daddy'. I tend to forget them sometimes when out-of-sight, LOL, so it helps in that respect.

    So...take 'em out of frig now and do the pot burial for stratifying 'naturally', or bag 'em in a baggie to *stay* in frig 'til you are ready to let them sprout early-Spring '08. That's it "in a nutshell" so to speak. It really *is* late-season to try and start a deciduous tree from seed.


  5. #5

    RE: Want to Raise Hickory Trees from Seed...

    Bitternut hickory seeds ripen and are dispersed from September through December. The nuts you collected might or might not be totally ripe and that might cause them to never germinate but there is a chance they might.

    Embryo dormancy in hickory seed can be overcome by stratification in a moist medium (moist to the touch, but not soaking wet) at 33 to 40 F for 30 to 150 days; when stored for a year or more, seed may require only 30 to 60 days' stratification. Bitternut seeds can probably tolerate a more moist seedbed than most of the other hickories, and it is the least susceptible to frost. Germination is hypogeal.

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