Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How to Germinate Banisteriopsis Caapi Seeds

Banisteriopsis caapi is a perennial vine native to the Amazon rainforest known for its role in South American ayahuasca ceremonies. These spiritual ceremonies have gone on for hundreds of years in the Amazonian Basin and still exist today to some degree. Today, banisteriopsis caapi is one of the most sought after plants by collectors of entheogenic plants. Its allure is fueled not just by a fascination to grow a plant, but to cultivate a powerful symbol, to possess something that harnesses the spirit of an ancient tradition and the mysticism of the rainforest.

In the recent decade, cuttings of banisteriopsis caapi have become somewhat readily available from specialty plant vendors. They can be grown indoors or out, and the right environment can allow established caapi vines to grow a foot per week. But for many growers the real experience, the real sense of accomplishment, involves creating a plant from scratch. Germination of banisteriopsis caapi is something that should be on every serious growers to-do list, but that only a small percent get to succeed in.

The real limitation, and what many new growers are not aware of, is that banisteriopsis caapi seeds have a low germination rate, which decreases to none in just a few months. By February I would expect the caapi seeds to be non-viable. Vendors who sell seed year-round are feeding on this naivety, and so it may seem to many growers that germination of banisteriopsis caapi is difficult or that it requires some special trick. The real trick is getting fresh seed. Banisteriopsis caapi seed harvest generally occurs in October or November. It can range a bit depending on yearly climate. It is wisest to plan your growing around those months to ensure you start with good seed, and it is worth paying more money for fresh seed. Since you are growing in the fall, it is likely that you will need to use grow lights, although nothing fancy is required. We typically arrange ahead of time for our caapi seeds to be shipped as soon as they are harvested. The freshest banisteriopsis caapi seeds are still green, although brown seeds will still germinate. In fact, even green seeds will turn brown in between planting and germination.

Once you have obtained your fresh banisteriopsis seed, it is time for sowing. Prepare a well-draining soil mixture. We have had success germinating banisteriopsis caapi with several different soil compositions, but we recommend using potting soil mixed with about 25% perlite. Avoid using seed starting mixes or soils heavy in peat because you want something richer that would resemble forest soil. In forests, the rainforest especially, there is vast supply of plant material to enrich the soil. As mentioned before, it is also important to have a well-draining soil because banisteriopsis caapi seeds are somewhat prone to fungus attacks. By removing excess moisture, it reduces that risk. Fungus attacks that do occur can be treated with chamomile tea, or you may even choose to use it to water your plants initially. Chamomile has natural antifungal properties. It is a good choice because it is organic.

We like to start many of our seeds in aluminum baking trays. Banisteriopsis caapi is no different. We like aluminum trays because they allow us to plant a good amount of seeds in one container, but any pot will do. Banisteriopsis caapi seeds resemble maple tree seeds both in texture and because they have a wing. Attached to one end of the wing is the actual seed. Side-by-side, the heads of the two seed types are obviously different. Even if the wing is bent or broken, it should not affect your ability to germinate banisteriopsis caapi seeds. It is this seed end that you want to press into the soil, leaving the wing in the air. There is no need to bury the seed too deeply. Just the thickness of the seed head itself is a perfect depth.

Once we have planted all our banisteriopsis caapi seeds in that way, we usually cover our tray with clear plastic wrap. Do not keep the wrap on tightly because restricting airflow is a bad way to avoid fungus. We have had success germinating banisteriopsis caapi with or without plastic over the top, but the plastic allows for better moisture control. You want to maintain constant moisture while germinating banisteriopsis caapi seeds, but you should be ready to remove the plastic any time the soil starts to look wet. As the moisture evaporates from the soil and condenses on the plastic, it rains back down into the soil. This can cause too much moisture to gather at the surface, which you want to avoid. By removing the plastic before the water builds up, you can dry the soil out before it affects the seeds. It should be about two weeks before you see anything. Be patient, and do not give up. You may get new banisteriopsis caapi seeds germinating days or weeks after your initial sprouts. Our picture shows young banisteriopsis caapi sprouts from a November 2009 planting (with anadenanthera colubrina in the far right).


1 comment:

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