How to establish lacquer trees
Ever since our beloved lacquer tree was killed by Dendrophthoe parasites we have tried to re-introduce the species at Dokmai Garden. In 2012 I planted a number of seedlings within the garden. Although 2012 had a poor and mostly dry rainy season, I did not foresee any problems, as this tree grows in very arid situations. However, all seedlings died, and I have heard from some other people about problems in transplanting lacquer tree seedlings from pots to plots.
Generally a pot allows controlled germination and protection from intensive sun, excess water, drought, weeds and pests, but some species seem to have such a vulnerable root system that a transplantation from a pot is very difficult.
Throwing out any type of seeds on the ground is of course an option, but many are lost to rodents, birds and weevils. Planting the seeds under the soil surface will provide some protection.
In the case of lacquer seeds, we simply soaked them in water for two days, and waited until the young roots began to emerge to make sure the seeds were viable. Then we selected a sunny and well drained area with sandy soil and dug a shallow (10 cm) hole in the ground and planted the seed just under the soil surface. Based on observations of its natural habitat, no compost is needed, as that may even contribute to a saturated environment resulting in fungal rots. The place should be marked by hammering a plastic rod into the ground (anything wooden will disappear within months due to termites). Continued watering is recommended since you initiated germination, but after the rainy season allow the seedling a drought dormancy to follow the natural cycle.
Text & Photo: Eric Danell