Cotyledon ‘Bear Paw’ : seed harvesting

A while ago I experimented with cross pollinating my bear paw succulent and was happy to find I got viable seeds.  It’s a little unusual to harvest the seeds, however, as you don’t get the traditionally looking seed pod. Here’s a quick visual guide to help show what you might expect.

The flowers, after pollination, dry out and become brittle. Since there’s no visual pod to watch for signs of splitting, my cue is to look for the stem just below the flower to whither and dry out. In the image below, the flower on the left is ready.

After removing the flower, the original flower petals must be removed.  They are joined, and if you can carefully pull one lip down, it will usually peel off all the way around like an onion skin.

Inside, you will find the cluster of the actual seed pods. They are long and thin, and the casing is usually curled in a ‘u’ shape along a roll of the actual seeds. The easiest way I have found to harvest the seeds is to gently break the top off of the cluster of pods and then gently roll the bundle between my fingers over top of a container to catch the falling seeds.

The seeds will be extremely tiny, and you may get a bit of chaff from the pods; I’ll remove the larger pieces of chaff with tweezers, and then leave the seeds to dry in the open air a few weeks before sowing.

For a substrate, I have used a mix that is equal parts compost (or peat mix), perlite, Horticultural sand, and vermiculite.  Make sure the potting mix is sterile and moistened, and then I will gently sprinkle the seeds over the surface of the soil with my fingers. I generally dab the tip of my finger into the seed container, at which point several seeds will stick to the skin and then gently rub my thumb and forefinger over the soil mix to shake the seeds free onto the soil. I sow pretty densely. Mostly this is because the seeds will be impossible to see once they land on the substrate. Mist lightly and cover.  Once the seeds begin sprouting, I have uncovered and relied on a misting periodically and a drench every few days.  The watering timeline will change depending on your soil mix, the size of your pot, and environmental conditions, so I unfortunately can’t give a solid answer on how frequently to water at this point. There is a silver lining that you can take heart in.  Compared to other succulents from seed, the Bear Paws seen more resilient to variations in humidity and moisture, but you still want to keep them generally on the humid and moist side early on.

Given the small size of the seeds, it takes a bit for them to get a decently large size; it will be probably a few months before you start to see the first true leaves emerge.

I am not 100% clear on whether or not the bear paw is self-fertile, but I suspect they are not and it will require two different plants to successfully pollinate. I have not had too much difficulty pollinating by hand with a brush, and I am fortunate in the fact that I believe the pot of Bearpaw I have actually has two unique plants in the same pot.

It’s a little hard to tell from the picture because each plant has branched near the base, but there does appear to be two clusters of Branches near the soil line. If you have two plants, or are lucky enough to have a large pot with this scenario, it’s a fun little project and relatively easy on the scale of succulents from seed.  If your plans are anything like mine they also bloom with surprising regularity, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to give it a try!

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