Lucerne trees flower prolifically from mid-winter to early spring, from July to November in South Africa. These trees carry very abundant, fragrant white flowers which attract bees, bumblebees and birds to the flowers — bee-keepers & honey farmers — take note! The flowers develop into seed pods, each containing about 6 – 8 seeds. Once brown and dry, the pods split open and the seeds fall out.
To harvest lucerne tree seeds, we prune the branches with their ripe seed pods while they are still unopened and store them until the pods pop open. We then hand-thresh and sift our seeds from their pods. Read about harvesting your own seeds here.
- We sell our excellent organic quality seeds in packs of 100’s or 1000’s in a sealed Ziplock bag, shipped undeclared as ordinary mail.
- The seed pack includes our detailed germination instructions plus at least 10% extra seeds.
- Seeds are couriered or posted with registered mail and we email you the waybill or tracking number.
- To order online – pop over to our Orders page.
Lucerne tree seeds (also known as Tagasaste – Chamaecytisus palmensis) are naturally very hard-shelled seeds and require a process called scarification to encourage germination.
We recommend a 2-part process where you nick or cut the edge of each seed before soaking the seeds in very hot tap water overnight to weaken the hard seed coat of the seed to encourage germination. Only start the germination process when you are ready to plant your seeds into seed trays or potting bags. Work with batches of + 100 seeds at a time.
- Nick the edge of each seed with a nail clipper or sharp blade. Only cut off the top edge of the seed coat and do not cut deep into the seed itself. Do not cut the bottom white germ edge. You can view how to nick the seed in a short YouTube video.
- Soak nicked seeds in a bowl filled with very hot tap water overnight.
- You can inoculate your seeds the next morning (in cool water) with Groundnut & Cowpea Group Inoculant which contains Bradyrhyzobium sp. (Vigna) bacteria, a bacterial legume inoculant. We do NOT supply inoculant, but you can order a packet from your local agricultural supplier. Read about this process here and here.
- Plant out the soaked seeds the same day.
- Prepare seed trays or potting bags filled with coarse river sand with holes for drainage. Do NOT use potting soil.
- Use a stick & make rows roughly 5mm (0.5cm) deep and place the seeds in these rows & cover lightly with sand.
- Water lightly regularly & do not let the soil dry out.
- The seeds usually germinate within 15 days.
- Wait at least 40 days until 70%-80% of the seeds germinate for maximum germination before potting out seedlings into individual 1-litre potting bags.
- Dig deep under the seedling roots to loosen the soil and gently lift seedling out of the potting soil. Do not pull the seedlings up from the tray as this will damage the roots.
- Water regularly and wait till these trees are at least 30-40cm tall with pencil-thick stems before planting them out in your lands.
- Keep watering the remaining germination trays even if the seeds did not germinate as slower seeds may still germinate!
- seed trays or
- 2-litre ice cream tub pierced with holes for drainage pierced at the bottom or
- plastic crates which have depth for the roots to develop or
- raised 30cm-tall mound seedbed of coarse river sand
How to transplant the young seedling into individual potting bags ~
- First fill individual 1-litre potting bags filled with well-drained, sand-soil mixture. We use the taller, narrower bags so that the roots have more room to develop.
- Dig deep under the seedling roots to loosen the soil and gently lift seedling out of the potting soil. Do not pull the seedlings up from the tray as this will damage the roots. Notice the extremely strong root growth on these seedlings!
- Use a dibber or any pointed stick to make a deep hole in the soil in the potting bag. Wiggle the dibber around to make the hole in the soil wide enough.
- Gently lift each seedling out of the germination sand and place the roots in the hole in the potting bag, and gently press the sand firmly around the seedling.
- Water immediately and then water regularly but lightly. Be careful not to over-water! These trees do not like to stand in wet soil. Micro sprayers are excellent as they give a fine mist and will gently water your little saplings.
- Only plant small trees out into the land when they have sturdy pencil-thick stems and are about 40cm-50cm high.
- Approach your planting as if you are planting out at fruit orchard.
- Pop over our Planting page for all our step-by-step instructions, photos and calculations.
Read all our posts on seeds and germination ~
- Nip your seeds before soaking
- Scarification germination process
- Proof – new germination method is effective!
- Hold your seeds until Spring
- New Seedlings Growing!
- What why and how to inoculate for rhizobia
- Lucerne trees nitrogen fixing nodules
- Inoculant is NOT needed
- When to harvest your seeds
- New Seeds 2022
The Life is in the Seed!
Copyright © 2012 by Myles & Nadene Esterhuizen
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher permitted by copyright law.
30 thoughts on “Seeds”
My sade ontkiem en kom op , maar baie van hulle kry nie die dop van die saad gebreek sodat die blare vry kan uitkom nie – dit lyk of die dop te hard is en die blare is dan vasgevang daarin. Wat doen ek verkeerd? Die sade is in riviersand geplant op omtrent 5mm diepte en word gereeld benat – ek probeer die top lagie klam hou in my kweekhuis met fyn besproeiing.
@Francois, although I have heard of this problem on other lucerne tree websites, we have not experienced this problem with our seeds. We germinate 1000’s of seeds weekly during our growing season and have not found seedlings becoming trapped. Those seedlings that have the seed shell on them seem to push through and the shell falls off.
I Had simular problems with my seed. I sterted to remove the shell and it just continue growing, it seems to be seed that did not swell enough in the water prior to planting
Ek wil graag die volgende weet:
1. wat is die botaniese naam van die Lucernetree
2. in watter klimaatstreke in ons land groei hierdie bome goed.
3. waar in die Wes-Kaap is julle?
1. Cytisus proliferus (Tagasaste)
2. Die boom doen heel beste langs die kus, in sanderige gronde en in ‘n matige klimaat, alhoewel hy sal n uiterste weer omstangigede oorleef.
3. Klein Karoo, in die Uniondale distrik, tussen Oudtshoorn en George.
when do you add the innoculent to the seeds?
@Ray, We have not used inoculent for any of our seeds and they have germinated very successfully. Should you wish to add an inoculent (Groundnut & Cowpea Group Inoculant. Contains Bradyrhyzobium sp. (Vigna) bacteria which is a bacterial legume inoculant for effective nitrogen fixation on legumes.), this should be mixed with the seeds as per the packet instructions, usually after soaking the seeds as in our germination instructions.
Hi Nadene, I would like to know if these seeds and trees will grow in Pretoria – Brits in Gauteng area/district?
@Pierre, yes, these trees should do well so long as they are planted in spring, watered regularly during dry seasons and protected from severe frost while still young saplings.
I need the seeds
Hello Edwin, Thank you for your email — we have sent you a detailed reply regarding ordering seeds and trees.. We have clients who have successfully grown lucerne trees all across South Africa. The one factor that will determine its success is that the ground must be well-drained as these trees do not do well in soggy, clay soils.
We’res out to uppot the seedlings and are wondering given the time of year if we should transplant into the ground in a few months (midsummer) or wait until next year. We’re in inland Northern California, 100+ degree summers, irrigated orchard and pastures where they’ll be planted, first frost in November.
@mattrosestark, we recommend that your hold your seeds until well into spring when the soil temperatures are consistently warm enough to promote germination.
Hi, I live in a drier section of the Western Division of N.S.W. Australia. 42,000 acres. The country used to be perineal salt bush, but, due to grubs and the dry yrs. that has changed. Do you think the tree Lucerne would manage out here and spread as follage for sheep? How long would we need to water for, what size, age etc would be more suitable. Our annual rainfall is meant to be around the 11 “, but we have only had 10” for the past 18 mths. Thanks, hope to hear from you
Australia has the most agricultural lands under lucerne trees in the world and they should have all the stats to support their success in your region. Certainly, lucerne trees are extremely drought resistant, but this is only once they have been established, which requires some form of irrigation during the first 18 months to 2 years. We have planted our saplings onto “dry” lands during our rain seasons so that we did not have to have irrigation, but those trees were not as successful as those lands where we planted trees with irrigation. Water is key in the early stages. I hope that this helps you in your planning.
Will keep in touch will take lot of time and dedication
Hi, I like to know if tagasate would grow well in Sri Lanka ?
@Nafees, it is always best for prospective farmers to do their own trials on their lands as every farm is unique in its climate, geography, soils and weather. There are several important factors for your success –
* Protect your seedlings, saplings and young trees from anything that might eat them while still young.
* Water lightly, but regularly.
* Prune your saplings to become bushy shrubs instead of growing spindly and slender.
* Manage these trees as if you were planting out a fruit orchard.
The only factor that does NOT suit these trees is dense clay soils or wet, soggy ground. These trees do not like sitting with wet roots.
We have a small, grey beetle that devours our seeds, boring holes in them. Would placing the seeds in the fridge or freezer be likely kill them off? Thanks.
Oh dear, this is a tough one. Try freezing your seeds and see if that helps. Just remember that there will be moisture from condensation when you take your seeds out to thaw and you will have to dry out those seeds you wish to store them again. We have used a fumi-tab to kill beetles in our animal feed storeroom which was effective.
i plant them 5 times grow 20cm and all of them die ?
do you add something ?
@ABDULLAH fahad, in our experience most people over-water their seedlings or use poorly drained soil for their potting bags. These seeds and trees hate to sit in soggy, wet soils for too long and usually die from root rot or disease. Once a tree reaches 20cm it could be planted out into the land. Hope that this helps.
Great information you have supplied readers. I have planted tree lucerne at this stage in 3 x100m rows for cattle fodder and they are now about a meter high after pruning.
I have struggled with germinating fresh seed and I wish I had read your comments 18 months ago. I am sure now I have been overwatering and using potting mix was not ideal for the initial germination stage with a success rate of about 50%.
I will also try not using boiling water even though this approach is regularly recommended by others. I think however that if I were a seed, boiling water would not be very pleasant so agree with your approach.
Thanks for your comments.
@Grant Johnson, thanks for sharing and good to hear of your success with your lucerne trees. Our germination instructions are the tried and tested methods that we found were the most successful in our years of farming and it will serve clients well to stick to our recommendations! Wishing you happy lucerne tree farming!
Hi, I am interested in running its trial in Karachi, Pakistan. Can you ship seeds there?
@Saad Ahmed, thank you for your inquiry. Unfortunately South Africa is not shipping registered mail to your country at this stage due to Covid restrictions. We will check with our post office each month for the list of permitted countries open to shipping and suggest you contact us again in a few months to see if Pakistan is on their list. Our apologies.
Hoping you can help.
I am trying to germinate some seed and have tried river sand, and a lot of other products but am finding that the first pair of leaves are either missing or fall off.
I am not over watering and am wondering if you have any suggestions.
I am wondering if the growing media is the problem and am trying a spray that is for collar rot.
Any ideas would be appreciated.
Hello @Grant Johnson,
Are you doing your germination outside? Your germination process using river sand is what we recommend — any well-drained soil mix, but not a product that remains wet and soggy such as peat or compost.
If your leaves are missing, they have been eaten. Frequently birds and mice or snails will eat the emerging leaves. Place 10% shade netting over your seedbed and put down snail bait if there are signs of snail trails.
Collar rot will only occur if you are over-watering or if your soil medium is not draining well. Collar rot will not affect the leaves at first. You will see lesions on the stem that turn brown, then narrow and shrivel and then the leaves will wilt and turn grey and brown. The leaves will not be missing.
I hope that you are able to save your seedlings, and I wish you the best.
Hoe vinnig groei die bome en op watter stadium kan ek hul begin gebruik vir beweiding?
Dankie vir jou vraag, @Jaco Rossouw. Lusernbome groei baie vinnig en bereik meer as 1,5 m in hul eerste jaar. Met volwassenheid bereik hulle 6 m hoog. Moenie jou bome vir die eerste 18 maande bewei nie. Jy kan dit snoei en hierdie steggies vir jou diere gee. Ná 18 maande kan jy jou diere die bome laat wei, maar bestuur dit goed.