The Propagation Group has moved into its new facility in the Anglesea community precinct.
With a well-designed, purpose built facility we hope to improve our propagation techniques and success rates, especially for those hard-to-propagate local species. In the past we have propagated some of these species from cuttings but now we want to use seed propagation to improve the genetic diversity of our stock.
Thanks to a grant from the Norman Wettenhall Foundation, Angair organised a propagation workshop on Friday 24 March at the Anglesea CFA with 40 people attending. The attendees included representatives from a wide range of environmental organisations. The program included a major presentation by Dermot Molloy, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria (RGBV)) and panel discussion, led by Bill McKellar, with local experts Graeme Stockton (West Coast Indigenous Nursery) and Michael Robinson-Koss (Otway Greening Nursery). Several Angair members gave short presentations on plant groups that we find very difficult to propagate from seed. The panel and workshop attendees discussed possible improvements in techniques.
Dermot’s presentation included an overview of RGBV functions and facilities including equipment, data collection and storage elements, which are critical parts of the whole complex business. The RBGV works on numerous, mostly public sector, requests and includes non-indigenous species of significance such as exotic street trees. Half the 1000 annual requests (accessions) are for native species. One example of their response to requests was the sadly unsuccessful attempt to save the famous Separation Tree, damaged by vandalism. However, most requests are for small numbers of plants grown by a range of techniques such as cuttings, root cuttings, seed, divisions, grafting, aerial layering, tissue culture, spore and fungi. Additionally, RBGV maintains the Victorian Conservation Seedbank where seed from across Victoria is collected and herbarium specimens are produced.
For difficult species, RBGV collect seed from as much of the population as possible, try established/recorded methods and, if not successful, move on with a radical approach. Family and genera is often a good guide to what will work. Some species demand use of fresh seed and should be sown immediately after collection whilst other seed will have a dormant period after ripening. RBGV recommends a cut test of seed to gain viability percentages before you even start to look at germination strategies. If the viability is low it will never have good results no matter what technique is used.
Wendy Crebbin outlined our experience with the Pimelea family. The panel agreed that these are hard to grow from seeds with winter germination the best bet, using smoke water and patience.
Woolly Rice-flower Pimelea octophylla
Deborah Penrose discussed issues with Epacris genera. The panel recommended that seeds be top sown, on seed-raising mix, topped with smoked vermiculite and bottom-soaked after sowing. Plugs were also suggested to reduce transplant shock.
Common Heath Epacris impressa
Peter Forster discussed the Restionaceous family (sedges/rushes) e.g. Tassel Rope Rush, a dioecious species which often has little seed showing. Recommendations included cold sowing, patience and smoke. Many populations may be infertile.
Sally White discussed the edible heaths, Astroloma , Acrotriche and Lissanthe. Recommendations included cleaning the pericarp, cold inducement, degreasing seed and patience!
Cranberry Heath Astroloma humifusum
Tracey Worsey discussed Hibbertia genera. Recommendations were they are best grown from new growth cuttings or winter seed germination and weathering (plant, leave outside in the elements and forget).
Bundled Guinea-flower Hibbertia fasciculata var. prostrata
Bill McKellar covered the Lepidosperma genera. All agreed that viable seed collection is difficult and weathering important. Division is difficult – try dividing from the top of the plant downwards.
All participants agreed the workshop was very worthwhile. We learnt that we need to improve our activity data recording and be more patient recognising the importance of time and seasonal effects.