Growing Trees from Seeds
There are some circumstances in which the best way to obtain new plants is to grow them from seed. For example, someone who wants to fill a large area with dozens of trees can do so much more easily (and cheaply) by planting seeds rather than setting out individual plants.
Also, for some rare species it may be difficult to obtain live specimens, but seeds might be available. For a very rare species, growing from seed might be the only practical way to get a plant.
Another advantage of seeds is that each tree is normally a genetically-unique individual, whereas purchased plants are often clones. In fact a species depends on this individually in order to survive, since the variability allows it to resist diseases and adapt to changing environments. The vast majority of natural trees grow from seeds.
One disadvantage of seeds is that it usually takes 2-4 years to get a plant of similar size to a purchased plant. But for someone with a long-term perspective, this isn't too important, since in the long run a few years doesn't make much difference.
Growing a plant from seed also allows a person to see its entire development and better understand its life history. A person may also feel a stronger attachment to a plant that he or she grew from seed.
Seeds of most trees need considerable time to germinate. Many of them have to spend a full winter in the ground, and some need two (or more) winters. For the latter, the alternating cold and warm exposures stimulate the complicated chemical processes within the seed needed to produce germination.
For species whose seeds take two or more winters to germinate, you might want to plant the seeds in the ground, carefully mark the location, and then wait. However, some people prefer to plant in pots, although more care is required, since the soil must be kept moist, yet good drainage is also essential to prevent sogginess. Pots should be left outdoors during the winter, but protected from excessive rains or long periods of freezing weather. If possible, put them in a sheltered area such as a shed or porch, but make sure that the soil doesn't dry out.
Seeds of most tree species should be planted about an inch deep, or perhaps a little deeper for larger seeds such as walnut and silverbell. Also, because germination rates are often low, you should consider planting at least twice as many seeds as the number of plants you want to obtain. Any extras can be destroyed or given to someone else.
Here are the seed treatment recommendations for some of the species discussed on this site:
Lost Franklinia (Franklinia alatamaha):
Carolina Silverbell (Halesia tetraptera):
Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia):
American Yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea):
Mountain Camellia (Stewartia ovata):
Chalk Maple (Acer leucoderme):
American Persimmon (Diospyros americana):
Cinnamon Clethra (Clethra acuminata):
Mountain Holly (Ilex montana):
At the present time there are only a few commercial seed suppliers that regularly sell seeds of rare U.S. trees, and their offerings tend to vary from year to year. And even if you see a species listed in one of their catalogs, sometimes when you try to order the seeds, you will receive a notice that they are out of stock.
Here are links to the websites of two established companies that sometimes have seeds of rare tree species available for sale:
Another possible source are Seed Exchanges. These are internet forums in which members post messages about seeds they want, or seeds they have available. If another member has the seeds you want, you may be able to make arrangements to have them sent to you through the mail. You can find these forums by doing a web search for "Seed Exchange".
This website created and maintained by Billy Bruce Winkles