Tree Seeds

Kathleen Roberts
Pine Tree Sprout

Tree seeds come in a dizzying variety. Planting seeds is important to the health of our planet, and with over 20,000 different types of trees in the world you will likely find many that are of interest to you.

Types of Trees

Trees can be scientifically divided into two categories.

  • Angiosperms account for about 90% of the trees on the earth. Characteristics of angiosperms are that they produce flowers and their seeds form in a protective ovary.
  • Gymnosperms do not produce flowers and their seeds are exposed as they are in a pinecone.

Trees can also be divided into deciduous and 'coniferous. Deciduous trees are known as broadleaf because they have wide leaves that drop in the fall. Coniferous trees produce cones instead of flowers and they keep their leaves, or needles, all year round.


Trees produce seeds in several ways. Some produce dry fruits that release their seeds at maturity. An example would be a Cottonwood tree whose fruits break open and fluffy seeds fly away. Other trees produce one-seeded fruits that separate from the tree without releasing its seeds. Maple trees are a good example. Some trees produce soft fruits that fall to the ground with its seeds inside, such as the apple tree.

Most seeds are not ready to germinate when they separate from the tree because they are not yet mature enough. Other seeds remain dormant until the conditions are right for them to germinate. There are two main types of dormancy.

  • Mechanical Dormancy occurs because the seed coat is thick or hard as in the case of a walnut. This type of seed can be encouraged to germinate with the aid of scarification. This is accomplished by thinning, filing or using sandpaper to break down the coating of the seed.
  • Embryonic dormancy occurs when the seed embryo needs a trigger in order to germinate. Usually this trigger is in the form of cold moisture or cold stratification.

Germinating Tree Seeds

First, tree seeds need moisture. Soak your seeds in water for 24 to 48 hours. If your seeds have a hard, thick shell or coat, try scarification before placing your seeds in the water.

Second, use cold stratification. Place moist peat moss in a baggie with your seeds and place the baggie in your refrigerator. The purpose of this is to simulate a mild winter. Seeds can stay in your refrigerator for as little as four to six weeks to as long as four to eight months.

Finally, sow your seeds. Tree seeds can be sown directly in the soil in the late fall. Moist, well drained soil is preferred. You can also grow your seeds indoors in pots or seed flats using a well drained mixture of peat moss and sand. Once your seeds germinate they will need a well lit area to grow and get strong. Your trees may germinate the following spring or it may take two or three seasons for your seeds to germinate. Be patient and you will see your little tree seedlings emerge.

Finding Tree Seeds

Sheffield's Seed Company carries seeds for dozens of different trees, including conifers, nut trees, fruit trees and more.

TreeHelp.Com carries everything you need to grow trees. Not only do they have a long list of tree seeds, but they also have tools, books and TreeHelp custom kits to help you grow healthy trees. features an impressive list of unusual tree seeds from around the world. Their online catalog also tells you the hardiness and moisture requirements of the trees you are interested in as well as the features and uses of each tree. Planting trees will add value to your property and provide a habitat for wildlife. It is truly amazing how everything from food and fuel to medicines and wood all result from planting such tiny seeds.

Tree Seeds