Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Crop summaries: Indian breadroot, Psoralea esculenta and Balsamroots, Balsamorhiza sp

Indian Breadroot, Psoralea esculenta

I've tried off and on to grow indian breadroot since 2006, and have never successfully established any plants.  I direct sowed some seeds when we first moved here in 2006, into brand new beds of imported garden soil mix.  (I don't remember the seed source.)  Some of the seeds did germinate, but the plants eventually vanished.  I don't know what happened, as I didn't do a very good job of keeping track of everything that first year.

I've tried at least two years since then to start the plants in pots and transplant them out.  I know in two years I successfully started them, most recently this year with fresh seed from Praire Moon.  But every plant I've planted out has failed to thrive, and eventually withered up and died.  This wouldn't account for the first year's failure in new garden soil mix, but perhaps the current fungal-dominated nature of the yard doesn't provide the right habitat for these prairie plants?  (I did receive inoculant for the batch this year, so they should have had their necessary symbiotic bacteria.) Or perhaps the slugs, which seem to avidly eat any leguminous seedlings, keep killing the breadroots before they can establish?

Balsamroots, Balsamorhiza sp
Similarly, I've tried at least two or three years since 2007 to establish balsamroots here, trying three different species: B. saggitata (National Germplasm Repository source), B. deltoidea (Inside Passage), and B. hookeri (National Germplasm Repository.) As with the indian breadroots, every time I've planted out what seemed like successful starts in pots, they failed to thrive in the ground, and eventually withered away. This year I kept all the starts in their own individual pots, thinking maybe they needed to grow large before being set into the ground. I didn't baby the pots a whole lot, but did keep them watered and with decent sun access, just like all my nursery pots. The balsamroots never grew very large, and many or all seem to have died off. Maybe they simply died off for the summer drought season (they're adapted to dry rocky areas with our summer dearth of rain), and will resume growth in the spring. But I'm not holding my breath. Again, I wonder whether the soil of our yard and the potting soil of our pots lack some associates the plants need to thrive?

I have to say, it's a lot easier to write up the outright failures--much less to say about them! I have a lot more of them to cover, some with more interesting nuances of failure. But I'll also try to put some more time into writing up the successful plants.


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Anonymous said...

It sounds as if your locale may be too moist for the successful growing of P. esculenta. The plant is not tolerant of very high soil moisture, and if you have slugs in the area, I would guess that it is too moist for breadroot. If you plant them in a sunnier area, and let the soil dry out quite well between waterings you may have more success.

Best luck!