Some weeks ago, I collected fruit from my Atherton Sauropus aka Pumpkin Fruit (Breynia macrantha) and extracted the seeds. Half of the haul went to my friends at a botanic garden for their rare plants collection and the other half remained here. Of the eight seeds I retained, seven germinated. One died — these things happen — but the other six are looking good. I am still keeping an eye out for the eighth. It might be non-viable or it might be taking its time to emerge.
When the Sauropus produced fruit, I asked a nurseryman with experience of this species if the seeds needed any special conditions.
He laughed and said, ‘No. They just pop up everywhere.’
I was sceptical. After all, this species has an extremely restricted distribution in Australia, and some of the seeds appeared scrawny and shrivelled. Not promising. But I filled propagation tubes with potting mix, poked the seeds into it — not too deep — gave them water, and left them to their own devices.
That was enough.
I can confirm: they do pop up everywhere.
The seedlings grow at their own pace. The first one to germinate has cast off the empty husk and produced a round of new leaves above the initial cotyledons, the leaves that developed inside the seed ready to photosynthesise at the first touch of sun. The others are slower. They have stems but are yet to break free of their cases. I will leave them to it. They are delicate and it would be easy to damage them inadvertently. New plants have enough to face without my clumsy interventions.
I find myself deeply invested in the survival and growth of these little plants, both in the propagation tubes and in the wild.
I’d love to have a place of my own where I can set up a little shade house and grow all sorts of rainforest species but the odds of that happening get longer by the day. My fingers stay crossed — except for when I’m repotting, of course, or the special native plant mix goes everywhere.