What is seed scarification?

In nature, habitat conditions favor seed germination, but sometimes in cultivation need a little extra help to be able to wake up. To do this, there are several methods that we can use, depending on the characteristics of the seed itself and the species to which it belongs.

One of them is the seed scarification. This word may still sound strange to us if we hear it for the first time, but you will see that after reading this article you will know what it consists of and which are the plants that can be scarified.

Table of Contents

  • 1 What is seed scarification?
  • 2 What are the seeds that have to be scarified?
  • 3 What is seed germination?
    • 3.1 What can go wrong?

What is seed scarification?


This is a pregerminative treatment that precisely helps the seed to germinate. In a natural way, the passage of time itself, as well as the impact of the sun’s rays, the digestive tract of the animals that eat fruits, the rains and the thermal variation, the seeds that are hard and / or that have a period of very long lethargy they would germinate, but the truth is that it would take a long time (months or years).

Of course, the person who grows plants is interested in having them sprout as soon as possible, hence he chooses to scarify them. How is it done? Well, it can be done two ways:

  • With sandpaper: you have to pass the sandpaper several times, until you see that it changes color. Then, put it in a glass of water for 24 hours, and the next day you can sow it in a seedbed.
  • Subjecting them to a thermal shock: It consists of introducing them in a glass with boiling water for 1 second, and 24 hours in another glass with water at room temperature. I recommend using a strainer to avoid contact with the boiling water.

What are the seeds that have to be scarified?

Acacia karroo seedlings

Image – Wikimedia / Joozwa

Here is a list with the main genera of plants that it is advisable to scarify:

  • Acacia
  • Albizia
  • ailanthus
  • Bauhinia
  • Cercis
  • Delonix
  • locust
  • sophora

And, in general, all that seed that is hard, and that also has a rounded or oval shape.

What is seed germination?

Seed germination goes through several phases

To understand what germination of seeds is, we are going to tell you a story that repeats itself, above all, every spring and sometimes also in summer and autumn. Our protagonists will be two angiosperm plants, that produce flowers and that, in addition, protect their seeds in a fruit. When, for example, a bee carries pollen from one flower to another, what it is actually doing is fertilizing the ovum of this second.

Thus, once it happens, the petals dry out, as they have already fulfilled their function (attracting the pollinator, in this case the bee). At the same time, the egg begins to swellAnd with it, a “skin” is also formed, which can be more or less hard, which protects it. As soon as it finishes maturing, that is, as soon as it has reached the size that its genetics dictates, it will acquire its final color. From here, it can remain on the mother plant for a while, or fall.

But this is only the beginning. Now the fertilized ovum, which is nothing more than the seed, has to germinate if it wants to continue. And for this, you will need above all to hydrate. If that egg is not hydrated as soon as possible, it will be spoiled. And it is precisely this and nothing else that will determine, to a large extent, how long the viability period of the seed will be.

Now, to be able to hydrate it is essential that this »skin», this shell, has some micro-cut through which water can enter. These tiny wounds are barely visible to humans, as they are made by:

  • the very rubbing of the seed with some stone,
  • the impact itself against the ground when falling,
  • sudden variations in temperature,
  • or in certain cases, by the teeth and / or stomach of animals

As soon as the egg is hydrated, that’s when the germination process really begins. It begins to grow, and it does so by expending energy on its first root, called the radicle. At the same time, the cotyledon little by little it opens up, reaching a point where it separates from the »skin» or rind of the fruit. This is the first leaf, which is known as the embryonic leaf, and it is the most important, since it contains the necessary nutrients for the seedling to produce its true leaves and, from there, grow.

What can go wrong?

Fungi do a lot of damage to seedlings

Image – Wikimedia / Jerzy Opioła

It is often thought that the most difficult thing for a seed is precisely to germinate, but the truth is that it is not. In nature, as well as in cultivation, It has to overcome several challenges: herbivorous animals that want to eat it, parasitic fungi willing to take advantage of the slightest opportunity to damage them, … and that’s not to mention the environmental factor. An unexpected frost or a drastic rise in temperatures, drought … all this can seriously affect you.

Every gardener, every farmer, can take some steps so that the seed not only germinates, but also reaches adulthood. And they are these:

  • Use a new substrate, with good drainage, and suitable for the type of plant being planted
  • Treat the seeds before and after sowing with fungicides
  • Keep the substrate moist, but not waterlogged
  • Place the seedbed in a ventilated place and with light
  • Do not put more than 2-3 seeds in each seedbed

And with this we are done. What did you think of this topic? Have you heard of seed scarification?

What is seed scarification?

Leave a Reply

Scroll to top
%d bloggers like this: