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An easy way to germinate Hyphaene coriacea
By Angelo Porcelli

Click photos to enlarge

Germinated seed just potted (left) and polystyrene
box with seeds covered by perlite (right)

Germinated seeds in various stages of
radicle development

The species of the Borasseae tribe aren’t at all difficult to germinate, as shown by the successful trials of other people with Bismarckia, Medemia and Borassus. However, they all have a vigorous root system which is quite brittle in the early stages, so some additional care is needed.

This is my experience with the Ilala palm. The first step, obviously, was to clean the dry pulp off the seeds; this can be done in many ways (including eating it ?!), but I have found it very easy and safe to put the seeds in a vice and cut them with a small saw. Don’t worry about damaging the seeds because there is a further hard shell before the endosperm. On the bottom, there is a round opening in the middle, from where the radicle pushes out; you can open this with a fingernail or tip of a pencil.

Then, as usual, I soaked them in water for three days, changing the water daily. At first the seeds floated, as they have hollow insides, but after a day they all sunk. I have tried the ‘baggie method’ before and it has worked well with several other species. I put the bag, with peat and perlite and five seeds, in the hottest spot of the greenhouse, as this species is known to need high temperatures to germinate. Some time later, when checking, I found all the seeds had germinated and rotted. I then realised that peat wasn’t the best medium for this species.

So I decided to try another way. I filled a polystyrene box with 20 cm of coarse river sand then put the seeds on the surface, sideways, and covered the lot with perlite. I watered once and put the box’s lid on. I placed it on the upper level of a shelf, in the greenhouse, where the temperature range was 24°C-38°C.

I first checked two weeks later and found that eight out of the 10 seeds had germinated and some had sent down a radicle of 10 cm. I repotted them in 30 cm deep pots, with a mix of sand, perlite and peat in the ratio of 2:1:1. Then I put in another five seeds, with the remaining ungerminated two. Like before, after a week the last two of the former batch germinated and a week later all the remaining five also germinated .

To conclude: Hyphaene coriacea is easily germinated if the correct medium is used together with deep containers and high temperatures.

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