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The ABCs of sowing

Wild leek seeds
Photo: Biodôme de Montréal
SEM'Ail Wild leek seeds

Collecting your seeds

If you are interested in propagating the species in your sugar maple, you may have already considered seeding. However, since the species is protected by law, it is impossible (and illegal!) to buy seeds on the market. If you are lucky enough to already have wild leek in your woodlot or if you know someone who does, you can harvest the seeds yourself. It is important to find a seed source close to your woodlot to preserve the regional characteristics of the natural population. The seeds, which mature in late August/early September, are easy to harvest. It is important that they then be refrigerated in an airtight container for the entire winter to mimic winter conditions. If the seeds are not refrigerated, their dormancy will be extended by one year. Although the seeds are harvested in the fall, delay planting them until spring so you can better select the planting site. 

Where to plant?

The description of the wild leek's habitat provided earlier should allow you to identify one site or several sites that will foster its growth. Wild leek grows only in areas predominantly populated by deciduous trees. It prefers areas that are wet in the spring (the middle or base of slopes, alongside streams), but not flooded. Avoid moderate to steep north-facing slopes and sites that are very rocky.

Plan ahead!

Always think long term when choosing a planting site. A gently sloping site will allow the seeds the plants produce to disperse naturally and the colony will expand in a favourable habitat. The choice of a protected location will prevent losses due to harvesting. Observe the vegetation already present for clues as to the best places to grow wild leek. A forest where sugar maple is predominant, along with white ash and linden, is a good indicator of a site that is fertile and warm enough. However, if too numerous, beech trees or conifers form a persistent fibrous layer on the soil that is detrimental to the establishment of herbaceous plants. An area where shrubs and other understory plants are not overly dense will promote better wild leek growth.

Certain understory plants frequently accompany wild leek and can help choose a seeding site. The best known of these companion plants are the trout lily, white trillium, red trillium, Canadian white violet, Canadian maidenhair fern and the ostrich fern. For a more detailed list of companion species of the wild leek, see the paragraph entitled “In good company” in the “Some basic concepts” section.   

Spring: The season of choice

Spring is the ideal time to sow wild leek, because it is the only season when the plant grows in the forest. It is the best time to ensure that the seeding site corresponds well to the ideal location described above, to recognize the companion plants and to best assess the growing conditions. Remember two important factors: humidity and the competition level!    

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