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Welcome Eagle High School Horticulture Class        

Thank you for coming to Conifer Corner Tree Farm. 

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Melody Steele's  review:

Introduction - We have 175 varieties of conifers that we culture and grow for the public. We have more varieties of conifers in Idaho than any other nursery. All the trees are suitable for our cold winters and hot dry summers. 

Seeds come from cones on the conifers. Conifer seeds have different shapes and sizes and sometimes have wings. The wings allow the wind to distribute the seed in the forest. Sometimes rodents or birds bury the tasty seeds for food caches and distribute the seed in the process. 

1) Seed Development - Douglas-fir is a conifer. It has a hyphen between Douglas and fir because it is not a true fir. In the spring there is TERMINAL VEGETATIVE BUD (top of tree) development . The vegetative bud will FLUSH (burst with soft needles) mid-spring. LATERAL BUDS develop on the new growth (on side branches of tree). Conifers go DORMANT in late summer through the  winter because it gets too hot and dry and then too cold to be actively growing. The next spring both FEMALE CONES ('pine cone' waiting to be fertilized) and MALE CONES (small with pollen) emerge from flower buds. Late spring the POLLEN (yellow powder) falls out of the male cones and fertilizes the female cone. In the summer the female cones grows pendent and large. As fall comes the embryo and seed development is nearly complete. The cone matures and opens to shed the seeds. 

Conifers do not get cones until they are about 10-15 years old or if they get STRESSED. The trees get stressed if they run low on water, get too hot, or too crowded by other trees robbing their food and water.  The trees say "Oh, I'm going die! I better reproduce before I die".

You can determine the age of a conifer by counting the WHORLS. The whorls are where the branches radiate out from the trunk (bole) of the tree. The first 2 or 3 years is hard to see where the whorls were. You add a 'fudge factor' to this when counting whorls. If there are 6 whorls visible, the tree may be 9 years old. 

2) Seed Propagation - Seeds are stored in cotton bags in the freezer. In the winter we get the seeds ready for germination. The seeds are rinsed to get rid of germination inhibitors. The seeds are placed in a jar to soak overnight. Seeds that are hollow and bad will float. Seeds that are good start absorbing water and sink. The soaked seeds are placed in baggies and STRATIFIED (placed in the cold refrigerator). Stratification is necessary as a pregerminative treatment to break dormancy in seeds and to produce uniform germination. The seeds are kept for a specified time (refer to Seeds of Woody Plant in the United States- US Agriculture Book No. 450) with moisture at near freezing temperatures. In a few weeks or months the RADICLE (root tail) will poke out to indicate the seeds are ready to be placed in the growing medium in pots. 

After one  year the seedlings can be sorted to select the biggest and best to be placed individually in tubes. After two or three years they are transplanted into GROW BAGS out in the field. The grow bags keep all the large FOOD STORAGE ROOTS in but allow the small FEEDER ROOTS to spread out in the surrounding soil. This makes it easier for us at the nursery (digging is easier) and for the person who buys the tree (digging a hole to plant is smaller). The downfall is that the trees grown in root bags should be tied up to prevent the wind from blowing them down. 

A drip irrigation system is automated to water the trees in the morning and at night during the growing season of spring, summer, and fall. In winter, when the trees are dormant, we do not water the trees. After 6 to 15 years, the trees are ready for sale and dug up. The grow bags are cut off and burlap is wrapped around the trees root ball. The burlap does not have to be cut off when transplanting the tree. Sometimes the trees are kept in the field to grow larger and placed in a pot that is inserted into another pot. This is called the POT-IN-POT SYSTEM. These trees can be watered with the drip irrigation in the field or kept near the shade house for sale. 

The most important and one of the least known things about all plants are FUNGUS and their relationship with plants. MYCORRHIZAE are fungus that grow in the ground and have a symbiotic relationship with plant roots. Both the fungus and the plant benefit by feeding each other. The fungus grow like roots spreading several hundred feet in the ground and attach to the plant roots. This is great because now the plant can get water and nutrients from a much greater area. The plant grows much better with mycorrhizal fungus.  In fact, most every plant in the world in its native environments has a special mycorrhizal fungus that only grows on certain species or HOSTS (accepting plants). Most people know that a mushroom is where the fairies and elves live under. Mushrooms, with gills, are one type of the reproductive form or fruiting body of the fungus that comes above the ground. Other mycorrhizae mushrooms look like 'cow manure'. You can sprinkle the SPORES (seeds of the fungus) around the trees on the nursery or in watering cans to spread the mycorrhizae.

There are DECIDUOUS conifers which lose all their needles in the winter such as larch (tamarack) and bald cypress. All other conifers are EVERGREENS and keep some of their foliage year around. The largest tree in the world is a GIANT SEQUOIA. One of the oldest trees in the world is a BRISTLECONE PINE.  The largest cone in the world grows on a COULTER PINE.


Bob Steele's Review:

GRAFTING is done when genetic traits can not be gotten through simple seed propagation or by CUTTINGS. Grafting involves a ROOT STOCK and a SCION (cutting with special genetic traits). With a sharp grafting knife the scion is trimmed at a special angle. Then a cut is made into the root stock to fit the scion into the root stock. The CAMBIUM is just inside the bark of the small tree and forms the PHLOEM and XYLEM. The  cambium has to match on both scion and root stock so it is best to have the diameter (width) of the scion match the diameter (width) of the root stock.   The PHLOEM which carries carbohydrates down through the tree grows to the outside of the cambium. The  XYLEM carries water and nutrients up the tree and grows to the inside of the cambium. We wrap scion and root stock together  with an elastic band. The type of grafting we do is called a SIDE VENEER GRAFT (side graft). We place pots on a heating pad to stimulate root growth.   

CUTTINGS can be a way to reproduce the exact same genetics. Cut 6 to 8 inch off the end of a healthy branches of a  genetically desirable tree. Dip the cuttings in HORMONES to stimulate root development of root cells. Place in a sterile potting medium like pearl-lite and peat moss.  Place plastic over top of potted cuttings to keep moisture in. Place pots on a heating pad to stimulate root growth.   

DIVISION can be done by separating a clump of plants that can root easily. This is done mainly with shrubs and perennial flowers. Place in a potting medium like ground bark and peat moss.  Keep the newly divided plants in the greenhouse until they are well rooted and growing strongly.


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Revised: March 31, 2009