“Have these things always looked like this?,” Karen asked with a hint of surprise in her voice.
Even though my back was turned as I stood at the kitchen sink, I knew exactly what had caught her eye.
A few days earlier I had plucked some ripe fruit from a Magnolia grandiflora in our yard that had colored up very nicely. They were easy to find on the ground and in the tree with their blushed, knobby appearance. I brought them indoors and was inspired to put them in a bowl on our table from seeing them top containers a few autumns ago at the Scott Arboretum. Such a clever use!
When I brought them inside, the fruiting bodies were sealed shut, but a few days in the house and the follicles on the aggregate structure started to split open and reveal their vermillion-colored seeds inside.
“They look like painted witch fingernails growing out of these things,” Karen continued. Both she and her sister who was visiting from out of town indicated they looked a bit freaky. It was nearing Halloween, and we had just watched Hocus Pocus a few nights earlier. I could see how seeds that magically appear overnight growing out of a structure could be a bit spooky and repulsive.
I, however, was delighted to see the seeds. We want more Magnolia trees on our property. Most years I’m too late getting to a tree to collect the little rubies because the birds and mammals get to the goods first. But, the propagules were right on my table for the picking.
In prepping for sowing in the past, I’ve removed the outer aril scrapping them with my own fingernails. However, one of the tricks I learned from reading Andrew Bunting’s book The Plant Lover’s Guide to Magnolias and a blog post he wrote during his tenure at the Scott Arboretum is soaking the seeds for three days in water will aid in removing the red arils that cover the surface along with any associated eeriness one might perceive.
Tonight, I plucked the last of the seeds from the follicles and plopped them into water-filled mason jars on our kitchen windowsill. After they’re cleaned, I’ll sow them in some damp growing media in a ziplock bag, stick it in the fridge for a couple of months to help overcome dormancy, and sow them in late winter.
I just hope no one confuses this batch in our fridge for chocolate cake mix.