Growing your OWN Salvia divinorum Seeds:

A Simple Step by Step Illustrated Guide.

Report begun September 25th, 2006
Last update on May 14th, 2011



Preamble: Why this research page?

Do you grow Salvia divinorum? Have you noticed that every fall your plants want to bloom? I have noticed that the prevailing attitude towards Salvia divinorum is that it does not set viable seeds. It is mostly to combat this attitude that I have created this web page. Research and experimentation from 1980 through 2007 have proved Salvia divinorum to be self-fertile. Salvia will set seeds if you give her a chance. You just need to know the signposts on the road to seeds: what to look for.



Some of the reasons I chose to 'publish' this ongoing botanical research here are:



All the information on this page was kindly contributed (through emails) by Mr. Daniel Siebert of the Salvia divinorum Research and Information Center, or was quoted from the single web page I am citing from, or was directly observed and photographed by me. Mr. Siebert's help was invaluable to me through the fall and winter of 2005 / 2006. I wish to help all of you in the same way he was of help to me.




Any quotation used by me is either from an e-mail, or from THIS research paper, accepted in 1987, that is hosted on the Salvia divinorum Research and Information Center web site.



I'd like to thank Jupe in Santa Barbara for feedback, and pictures of his lush garden (with hummingbird!), and I'd especially like to Thank Mr. Siebert: without whose advice this web site / my garden / would not exist. I would also like to thank Jupe & Mr. Siebert for the nice pictures of freshly grown Salvia divinorum seeds for my posting on this research page ... You guys are the greatest ...




Equipment you will need to grow your own seeds:






Part One: Considerations about Blooming.



You will notice that the first thing on the list of equipment that you will need is "Salvia divinorum plants that are 12 inches or taller (that are blooming or showing signs of blooming.)" I cannot stress enough the importance of having flowers on your plant in order to get seeds from it. ;-)


MOST Salvia plants in the wild bloom when the days get shorter than 12 hours. My Salvia divinorum garden has shown signs, 3 Octobers in a row, that it will bloom. On October 14th, plus or minus one week, I will see the tell-tale signs of flowering spikes starting to form on the tips of branches.

As a matter of fact it has begun already this year all over southern California. My garden, as well as Jupe's garden in Santa Barbara, already is showing sites where racemes are developing on our Salvia divinorum plants. We can safely assume that, barring too much man made light at night interfering with your plants photo-period, that by the end of November 2007 you, too, will have Salvia divinorum plants preparing to bloom! 

 



"During our conversations Don Alejandro told us that the flowers produced seed that could be planted to grow the Salvia."


"From herbarium sheets of Oaxacan collections, we noted that flowering specimens were collected only between late August and March, a time of short days (Valdés 1983). In Mexico City (which is not far north of the collection localities), daylength reaches a maximum of 13h in June and decreases to about 12 h in October (Salisbury and Ross 1978). Although most plants affected by daylength need exposure to a certain critical dark period to begin the development of flower buds, some need a tapered decrease in daylength to induce flowering (Bickford and Dunn 1973)."


"Outdoor and greenhouse experiments
About 50 plants were cultivated in an Ann Arbor garden during summers. They were put in a greenhouse (Matthaei Botanical Gardens) in September 1980 and placed on 28 in tall 6 ft by 17ft benches. Minimum greenhouse temperature was 10°C. Maximum temperature (10-30°C) depended on outside conditions.

Experimental results
Buds were observed in late October. Flowering began on 10 Nov and continued until early January 1981. All specimens bloomed. Similar results occurred during 1981 and 1982."


"Of 14 hand-pollinated flowers (later protected by glassine envelopes), four set seed, which was collected on 16 Dec 1980."

Four out of Fourteen doesn't sound like Salvia is infertile to ME!



Here in San Diego I saw the first signs of racemes forming on October 8th, 2006. For October 12th in San Diego sunrise is 06:50 AM / sunset is 06:19 PM: that is 11 and 1/2 hours of daylight. In addition, I'm losing 2 minutes of daylight per day: the sun rises a minute later and sets a minute earlier. The changes that trigger blooming in Salvia divinorum begin to occur just after the daylight hours get down to 12 hours per day. I even calculated that my salvia plants first felt the urge to bloom about 2 weeks ago when the photo-period fell to 12 hours of sunlight per day. Anything less than 12 hours of sunlight triggers the beginning of racemes, it seems.

If your plants get natural light they will attempt to bloom for you each fall unless they are exposed to too much man made lighting during the night.

Check to make sure they are not under the streetlight, or next to the late night tennis courts.  All night security lights, and too much light from your house's windows, will prevent blooming! My investigations revealed that a 40 watt incandescent security lamp 12 feet away was sufficient to prevent flowering. Put your plant in a dark closet or cupboard where it won't be disturbed for more than a few minutes during the night.

I have 3 or 4 plants that are near my bathroom window that refuse to flower. All the plants in a 6 foot radius of the tiny frosted shower window have no racemes: except Henry. (The side of Henry facing the window doesn't have flowers: the far side of Henry will flower soon!) The 27 watt florescent bathroom light has been left on too long for too many nights now and these plants right under the window have aborted flowering for the rest of the season. Salvia divinorum is VERY Sensitive to even small amounts of artificial light disrupting her flowering cycle! If your plants refuse to flower I can assure you they are getting SOME Artificial light at night!




If you are growing Salvia divinorum in a basement, or a garage, or somewhere where it gets no natural light you can induce flowering at any time of the year!

Since you grow your plants under lights controlled by a timer you can induce flowering simply by setting your daylight to night ratio of your lighting systems photo-period down to 11 hours of daylight to 13 hours of dark. There is no need to taper the daylight hours down to 11 hours slowly, over a period of weeks: it can be done overnight.

Mr. Valdés experiments with the growth chambers demonstrated that blooming in Salvia divinorum is triggered by shorter periods of daylight. As he put it:


"The greenhouse and growth-chamber experiments indicated that S. divinorum is an obligate short-day plant. Plant height is a minor factor in flower development, as several (growth chamber) specimens were less than 0.5 m tall when they flowered."


"Growth chamber experiments
Sherer Environmental Chambers models CEL-512-37 and CEL-34-14 were freshly outfitted with incandescent (93W) and cool white VHO fluorescent bulbs. Eleven plants from each of the three sources were divided between the two chambers. Plant-top light-intensity varied from 2,800-3,300 ft-c, depending on plant height and the chamber involved. Controls were set for maximum relative humidity (measurements varied between 50 and 100%). Temperature was set at 22°C day (16H) and 17°C night (8 H). Plants were grown under these conditions for 12 wk. Beginning 24 Jan 1980, daylength was decreased from 16 to 11 h over a 4 wk period.

Experimental results
Buds were noted on 4 Apr 1980; flowering branches were collected on 20 Apr 1980 (Valdés s.n., 22 Oct 1980, MICH). All plants flowered at a height less than 1.0 m; the flowers had a purplish calyx and white corolla (flower). Repeating the experiments with an abrupt change from 16 h to 11 h days indicated tapered decreases in daylength were not necessary to induce flowering. Increasing daylength to over 12 h caused plant to revert to vegetative growth and abort flowers (Valdés s.n., 15 June 1981, MICH). Later a malfunctioning timer switch indicated that less than a week of 24h days induced this reversion, even if conditions were returned to short (11h) days."


If you are currently growing Salvia divinorum in a 'dark room' all you must do is set the timer to 11 hours of daylight for the next three months / daily hand pollinate: and harvest viable seeds (perhaps hundreds of them) for about a 3 month period / set the timer to 16 hours of daylight for the next three months and grow your plants much bigger - then repeat the cycle every 6 months! You'll have two "harvest seasons" per year, totaling over 5 months, to get as many seeds as you can. Let's see: if a raceme has a dozen verticillasters on its rachis, each verticillaster being composed of 2 cymules and each cymule having two equal clusters of 6 pedicles, and bearing in mind that each pedicle can host 4 seeds maximum .... Oh, yes: and I'll assume that 10% of all hand pollination's result in seeds - what is that? Hmmmmmm. Possibly quite a few seeds ....


Comes the equinox: she feels 'the call of fall' and slowly shifts gears for seeding time.


EVEN a cutting will try to bloom! On October 5th, 2006 I got a cutting from one of my plants and put it in a mug of water.

Click to enlarge image.



On November 8th I saw the bud of a flower stalk had started forming in the previous 5 weeks as the cutting was growing roots in a mug of water! The cutting is in dirt now and will bloom almost as soon as it is a plant!



Summary: if the plants get a sufficiently long period of uninterrupted (and dark) darkness each night they will bloom for you. It's their instincts at work. This plant will follow it's instincts to bloom and set viable seeds.






Part Two: Hand Pollination and Seed Harvesting.

Signposts on the road: what to Look for.



The first signs that your plants are going to bloom is the appearance of the buds that will eventually become the racemes (flowering stalks).
The first sign

Click to enlarge image.






The second sign on the road to seeds is the bud of the flowering stalk begins to unwind and lengthen.

The Second Sign

Click to Enlarge Image.





The third sign on the road to seeds is the further lengthening of the flowering stalks, the raceme begins to turn purple at the nodes, and small immature flower buds appear. Immature flowers in 'green' calices may bloom: but they are not fragrant and will not set seeds.
The Third Sign

Click to Enlarge Image.





The fourth sign on the road to seeds is the whole raceme and all buds finally turn purple and mature flower buds begin to bloom. These flowers are larger, have purple calices, and smell sweet, and they will begin to attract pollinators, if any are around.
The Fourth Sign

Click to Enlarge Image.




Get ready: It's time for YOU to do YOUR Part .....




OK, you've got a Salvia plant with flowers on it: now what do you do?

You wait until a flower falls off of the plant: pick up the freshest fallen flower and look at it. Sticking out of the open end of the flower is something that looks like a forked snakes tongue: This is called the pistle. The inside of the fork on the end of the pistil is called the stigma: it has the receiving channels for the pollen in it. Below the pistle are two small brown pinheads sticking out on small white threads: these are called anthers.

You should choose a flower that is still all white, with no trace of brown or purple streaking it, and the pollen parts should be from light yellow to chocolate brown in color: and not withered up.




Flower parts illustration: the steps on the road to seeds
From Flower Buds to Seeds
Click to Enlarge




For a more complete discussion of flower parts and the wondrous way that nature organizes them: please refer to This Page.


As you refer to that page please keep in mind these points: Salvia has a complete flower and dicotyledonous seeds, its septals are purple and fused into a calyx, and its corolla is fused to form a corolla tube.


What you want to do now is to wipe the anthers that are on the flower in your hand right along the middle of the forked tongue (the stigma) of the remaining flowers on your plant. Wipe the protruding and fuzzy pinheads on the flower you are holding along both sides of the inside of the white forked snakes tongue protruding from the remaining flowers on your plant (the stigma). Wipe them carefully along the inside of the "V" shape made by the end of the pistle.


Click to Enlarge Image.




The pollen is invisible and you'll not be able to tell if you've done it correctly. (it takes but a second or two for a quick wipe.) If you do this twice a day, you have six chances to pollinate any given flower, because the flowers only stay on the plant for about three days after they open. That will be the most of the work you'll have to do, aside from watching / protecting / and harvesting your own special Salvia divinorum seeds as they develop.


Click to Enlarge Image.




Wild Pollinators:

If you are not growing outdoors you may skip this part.
There are likely no 'birds and bees' able to get to your flowers.





Jupe caught an Anna's hummingbird feeding and pollinating his
Salvia divinorum patch on November 27th, 2006.
He took her picture: I circled her in green. Way to go Jupe!


(Find the hummingbird in the above photo. See her?)


Hummingbirds are known pollinators of Salvia divinorum blossoms: these are 2 pictures of Anna's hummingbirds pollinating a Salvia divinorum flower. Jupe and I caught them in the act of pollinating in these photos! If you have hummingbirds around they will argue over whose turn it is to lick out your Salvia divinorum flowers! Every hummingbird will try to lick your flowers dry: this may result in some pollination and 'wild' seeds! I have seeds ripening in my garden that I know I did not pollinate (the next picture down the page!)! I saw the hummingbird making her rounds of every raceme yesterday looking for more flowers to lick out! So, except for the fact that I didn't witness the pollination myself, I am certain the seeds are hummingbird pollinated ones! I'm going to get lazy with hummingbirds licking them out every day!

Bees are also seen on Salvia divinorum blossoms. Bees are believed (by me) to be the pollinators responsible for the wild Salvia divinorum seeds harvested on Hawaii in 2005. I learned that there are no hummingbirds on Hawaii, and the person that gathered several dozen 'wild born' seeds from the plants there had reported seeing bees on those plants. It is possible that bees will do you a pollination service also. I saw bees visiting my plants in 2007.

I don't blame the birds and bees: salvia nectar is delicious and the fresh flowers are like sweet tiny apples. The flowers smell strongly of Honeysuckle. One person said they sprinkled fresh salvia flowers on her salads: an excellent use for them besides being a source of Pollen.




The fifth sign: after about three days (hopefully you pollinated on all 3 days the blossom was open :D ) the flower will fall out of the little purple cup it bloomed out of.
(This little purple cup is called a calyx. This is where the seeds will be forming in the next four weeks.)

Click to Enlarge Image.




Mr. Siebert wrote me: "Another way to do it is to remove the anthers from one flower with tweezers, and then use the isolated anthers to dust the stigma (the forked end of the pistil) with pollen. If fertilization is successful, the calyx of the fertilized flower will stay on the plant for several weeks after pollination. If it is unsuccessful, it will fall off a few days after the pollination attempt."

He also wrote: "The mature seeds are pretty small (1.8ˆ2.1 mm long, 1ˆ1.2 mm wide). They are green when immature. They are dark brown when mature. If you peek inside the calices with a hand lens, you will see the developing nutlets.
Green Salvia Seeds Ripening in 2007
You'll also notice a cream-colored protuberance alongside the seeds. This is the gynobase horn. Each calyx can produce up to four seeds. Watch for the seeds to change color from green to brown. When they turn dark brown they are ripe. Once they are ripe, they will fall out of the calyx easily. Valdés noted that it took 25-27 days between date of pollination and date of seed harvest on the plants that he hand-pollinated."

"I recommend trying to cross whatever strains one has available. When performing crosses, it is a good idea to do so in both directions (i.e., use pollen from plant A to pollinate plant B, and visa versa). It would be very interesting to cross 'Luna" with another strain. To perform a cross pollination, one should insure that the flower being pollinated does not come into contact with its own pollen or pollen from other Salvia plants other than the one you intend. This mean that you have to remove the immature anthers from the flower before the flower is fully open. You then have to prevent the flower from being pollinated by wind, insects, or hummingbirds. That means you have to isolate the flowers by enclosing them in small nylon-mesh bags. Little plastic bags might work also. In any case, it is no easy project. You could not bother to isolate the flowers, but then you could not be sure that the seeds resulted from your hand-pollination attempt or a different pollinator."

I have some of those 1" by 1" baggies left over from last year that might do the trick for covering flower and all - let me know if you're interested in them, instead.

So, you should hand pollinate all the flowers you can get to twice a day using the freshest fallen flower. You do this throughout the entire blooming season. Every little purple cup (calyx) that stays on the plant over a week after the flower has fallen out is developing seeds inside of it. IF you are lucky enough to have several strains of Salvia divinorum plants handy: Using a flower from one strain (say, LUNA, for example) to wipe on some of the flowers on a different strain plant (like BLOSSER) can result in seeds of a new hybrid strain!!!!! (seeds of the new "BLUNA" strain: very rare!) ;-)

The final sign: You get your magnifying glass, and you look up inside of those calices that refuse to fall off the plant.
Green Salvia Seeds Ripening


If you see seeds like these ripening inside the calices, you should slip a small covering over the calyx to prevent the loss of seeds. The scientists in the paper I am citing from used small glassine envelopes: last year I used 1 inch by 1 inch small Ziploc bags to cover the calices and prevent seed loss.
Ziploc Bags Protect Seeds Ripening


This year I shall be using 5/8 inch by 5/8 inch 2 mil Ziploc bags to cover the calices. (This is a better size, as the 1 in. by 1 in. bags were a bit too large.) I bought a thousand of them and will sell them in pairs only at two for three cents (3¢ for 2 bags) if you wish to buy some from me.

I have determined that there is an easy way to tell, just by looking, whether not any given calyx is developing seeds.

The Ripening Gauge

    B - These are flower BUDS: your future seeds
  1. The shape of the calyx that the flower has just fallen out of, when viewed from the side, is conical or tapered.
  2. The cross section shape of the calyx that the flower has just fallen out of is oval when you look right into it. It retains this oval shape through the first 2 weeks after that. This calyx shows seeds about a week to two weeks after the petals fell out. The gynobase horn (that white wedge seen here) is predominantly visible for about the first week or two.
  3. At about a week you can see that seeds have set by the shadow of the enlarging gynobase horn inside the calyx. Notice the width of the open end is much wider than the width of the closed end. Up to about two weeks: the calyx has a tapered look to it.
  4. Inside this protective Ziploc a calyx has seeds 3 weeks old almost ripe in it. This calyx has gotten longer and has a square cross section with distinctive creases running the length of it.
  5. 2 to 3 week old seeds ripening
  6. You can tell this one is full of seeds. As the seeds ripen you'll note that the closed end swells up as the calyx lengthens until both ends are the same width. The sides of the calyx are nearly parallel here. In addition: you can actually see the shadow of the seeds forming up inside the calyx. This is a good time to put a protective baggie over the calyx.
  7. The calyx turns square and gets sharp creases along it's length.
  8. And older riper calices get ragged and torn looking septals.
I have observed that the cross section shape of the calyx that the flower has just fallen out of is oval when you look right into it. If viewed from the side its shape is conical or tapered. If pollination is successful the cross section shape of the calyx, over the next four weeks, becomes square and the calyx itself elongates into a boxy and square looking tube. This is because the septals continue growing as the seeds ripen, and the seeds push out, as they ripen, in four different directions to get a distinct square cross section. At the start: the width of the open end is much wider than the closed end. But in 3 weeks time the closed end swells up, as the calyx lengthens, until both ends are the same width. In addition: you can actually see the shadow of the seeds forming up inside the calyx. This is a good time to put a protective baggie over the calyx.

After four weeks the calyx turns brown. This is your plants way of saying that she's done with the job and seeds are ripe! She no longer cares what happens to them: they are supposed to fall out and 'get lost'! When the bagged calyx turns brown carefully remove the calyx and ripe seeds with the Ziploc bag still covering them. (you could carefully snip the pedicle with cuticle scissors.)

A Calyx and 4 Ripe Seeds

Happy Harvesting!





I wrote Mr. Siebert to ask him if he'd like to sell the mature Salvia seeds "we" are going to grow this year from his Sage Wisdom web site. And here's most of his reply:

"Yes. Definitely. I would be happy to buy Salvia divinorum seeds from anyone as long as they are genuine and viable. I'll have to think about the purchase price.

Make sure on your website that you advise people to refrigerate their seeds after harvest. In my experience, they remain viable for about 2 years if refrigerated, but only a few months if stored at room temperature.

Regards,
Daniel Siebert
The Salvia divinorum Research and Information Center
http://sagewisdom.org"


See? I just learned something else. I've learned an awful Lot about these plants in 44 months. I've learned I love them.





Glossary:






My 2007 Experimental Results:







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