One of my passions outside of therapy is working with trees. While I was attending the University I remember walking from class to class picking up seeds and learning how to grown them myself. Now getting a tree to grow isn’t as simple as placing a seed in the ground only to stand back to watch it shoot skyward. Different trees require different conditions to start the growing process. Many seeds need some form of stratification before it can begin. Stratification is basically the process of breaking down the hard, waterproof external shell of the seed. There are three main ways this happens in nature: 1) Cold Stratification, 2) Scarification, 3) Stratification by Fire.
Cold stratification: The seed must undergo a wintering period before it’s ready to open up and send off roots. As the seed begins to soak up water from the ground the cold weather will assist in cracking open the hard shell. Without this special 30 – 90 day cold stratification period the seed will remain dormant.
Scarification: Some seeds are covered by an extra tough shell which is not responsive to cold stratification. These seeds are sometimes eaten by birds or other animals and the digestive system breaks down the hard shell so when the seed is deposited back to the earth it has the chance to grow.
Stratification by Fire: There are some seeds that go through a more severe form of stratification. These seeds wait dormant until a forest fire before the protective shell will release the seed. This seed then has very fertile ash to assist it in the growing process.
Some lucky seeds don’t need anything at all and they operate the way we all assume they would. Just add dirt, water and sun.
The reason I share this biology lesson is because we go through similar processes before we can grow. Some people are just plain lucky and don’t require more than basic dirt, sun and rain. However, the rest of us have our various hardships that break down our tough exteriors before we can send off our roots and grow the way we were intended to. We have our own seasons of cold, scarring and fire to deal with, but like these giants of the plant world, we to can come up from the ashes of our experiences and rise above.